Superintendent Thoughts: Counter Faith with Love, Implicit Bias Training, Japan Bowl and More

Well, spring has officially arrived !! I for one am certainly celebrating the drier and warmer weather !! I trust that you will have an opportunity to get outside and feel the sun on your face as the magic of spring unfolds.

As we think about this spring season of light and growth -- new beginnings in many ways; it is at times hard to reconcile with the senseless hateful acts of violence that happen.  As you know, last week at least forty-two people died at the Al Noor mosque and at least seven others at the nearby Linwood mosque in New Zealand.  Whether it’s a Christian church in Charleston, South Carolina, a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or a Muslim mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, these attacks on worshippers, young and old, are abhorrent.  As many of us think about the places of worship that we or our friends and neighbors might regularly attend, or places we gather for social and community events to celebrate milestones and make memories, we should not need to fear the darkness of hateful violence.  In our own community, our Muslim neighbors, families and friends have been deeply affected.  We embrace them with our sympathetic and comforting thoughts and join them in lifting up our hopes and dreams for a better and brighter future together.  We must stay in the light of understanding and love in its purest sense and not allow the darkness to drive us apart.  We, here in our house, remain resolutely committed to supporting and nurturing a welcoming and inclusive experience for each of our students, staff and families.  It is core to who we are and how we work.  As we think about our commitment to living our best lives, and aspiring to our highest purpose, and supporting those around us to do the same, I am struck by the inward facing question posed by Bill de la Cruz; "What is it about me that's experiencing you like this?” and I continue to work on examining my own thoughts and values so that my actions remain aligned with our district commitment to equity, to safety and supports for students and adults, and accomplishing our aspirational goals for ALL students in an effort to realize the hopes and dreams of our community.

In thinking about this global strife and how I might thoughtfully speak about it at an upcoming community event Friday evening, the Counter Faith With Love event, I went back to a personal favorite text, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, coauthored by Douglas Abrams, who interviews the Dalai Lama and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In their effort to create a gift to the world, they spent a week together and sought to be responsive to a need to find joy even as all around us we see evidence of despair and grief. Interestingly, they argue that the source of all joy resides in the quality of our relationships with one another, and they talk about the importance of inclusion as a means of support for these joyful relationships; "When we see others as separate, they become a threat. When we see others as part of us, as connected, as interdependent, then there is no challenge we cannot face — together. What can you do to help change the situation? You might not be able to do a great deal, but start where you are and do what you can where you are. And yes, be appalled. It would be awful if…we said, 'Ah it doesn't really matter.'”  I so appreciate all that each of you are doing as we continue to nurture a joyful culture and climate here in this amazing district. It is all about us and it does matter...

In accordance with our bold strategic plan, we committed to districtwide implicit bias training and as such our team has been hard at work developing an experience that we could do as a community and become stronger and more authentically inclusive as a result.  Yesterday, we had the opportunity to engage in thoughtful discourse and both personal and collaborative reflection around this important topic.  A big thank you to those who crafted this training and to all of you who participated.  This training was developed by Dr. Chris Bigelow and Ayva Thomas in our Equity and Diversity Department in collaboration with Tracy Meloy and Shelby Reynolds. A reminder that the purpose of the training is to build our cultural competence by developing a greater sense of self-awareness. This training is a "we" thing. Why? Because we all have implicit biases and we can all work together to re-train our brains to ultimately change the way we look at and react toward others who are somehow different. It also represents a united commitment to address challenging work.  What we learn from these conversations will help guide our work, interactions, hiring, and so much more.  Now more than ever, we must model and lead what we want to see in our community and world.  Imagine the possibilities…

This past week, we had our seventh Board SIP visit and traveled to Moorlands Elementary School. These visits are so integral to the comprehensive work we do as a district. In highlighting the work of the school, Principal Talena Graff highlighted several aspects of the school work this year; " What a fun visit! We were proud to highlight some changes to our intervention supports and the amazing community partners at Moorlands. We appreciate the opportunity to examine our practices tied to growth for every student.” Further, South Region Assistant Superintendent, Heather Miller observed; “The staff at Moorlands is committed to growth and success for every student.  This is evidenced by the differentiated instructional strategies utilized in every classroom.”  It is always so energizing to be out in the schools !!

The past three days have seen a new approach to bargaining the upcoming contract for teachers and education support professionals in our school district.  Together, we have spent significant time learning and practicing Interest Based Bargaining skills and have had the opportunity for guided practice and coaching on actual bargaining topics.  This process supports an inquiry approach to problem solving and negotiations designed to bring both groups together in a relationship that encourages cooperation instead of competition.   It is our intent that we will successfully institutionalize collaborative bargaining relationships and procedures that will become standard practice between the District and NSEA with the goal of cultivating more creative and powerfully positive outcomes for students and staff in this amazing district.  Several of the comments at the end of the day included; “I like how this builds the foundation of our future work together” and “This feels hopeful and it’s what we hope to see in our students.”  Imagine the possibilities…

We at Northshore understand the importance of students entering the classroom ready to learn. Northshore's Nutrition and Fitness Advisory Committee is tasked with setting the standard for student health and wellbeing in our district and thus play an essential role in providing the foundation for student success in the classroom. At this time the advisory committee is looking to deepen and diversify our stakeholder representation. The Nutrition & Fitness Advisory is tasked with updating district and school wellness policies as well as monitoring the effectiveness of the nutrition and fitness procedures. Scratch cooking, reusable silverware, local vendors... Imagine the possibilities! Parents, students, physical education & DECA staff, as well as any community members who have a passion for improving the overall health of our students, are encouraged to reach out to our Nurse Manager, Rebecca Cavanaugh or Food Services Director, Juliana Fisher to get involved. Investing in the health of our students paves the way for ready & eager learners.

In great news from Bothell HS, Japanese Teacher Chikako Misener, shared an example of outstanding achievement.  Recently, the following students participated in Japan Bowl on Saturday, March 16th, in Vancouver, WA, to showcase their knowledge in Japanese language and culture.  Two out of three teams advanced to the 3rd round and placed second in their level! The pictures show them receiving the awards from the Consul of Japan. This was the first time high schools from Washington State were invited to the Japan Bowl.  A total of seventeen teams from high schools all across WA and Oregon competed during Saturday’s event. “I was so proud of them all!” observed Chikako.  We as a district are also so proud !!

In late breaking news from the home of the Jaguars, last night, at the Bothell vs. North Creek Track & Field meet, North Creek senior Natalie Holmer threw the javelin 147’4” for a new personal record.  Natalie is now the #1 ranked high school female in the javelin in the United States!  Wow !!

I want to remind you how excited I am to share that we are continuing a partnership project with our very own Northshore Schools Foundation.  On March 25-27, 2019, Northshore School District will welcome Project Voice performances and workshops for our NSD students, staff and wider community.  Nationally-renowned, Project Voice is a group of spoken-word poets who perform in schools and for communities across the country and beyond.  Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, from Project Voice, will return to our district on those three days in March to work in schools providing large group performances and small-group workshops with students.  A Project Voice Community Performance will take place on the evening of March 26th at WHS.  This event will showcase the Project Voice poets/performers for everyone in our community.

Project VOICE uses spoken word poetry to entertain, educate, and inspire. Through award-winning performances and innovative workshops, Project VOICE promotes empowerment, improves language skills, and spurs creative collaboration in classrooms around the world. Project VOICE has a lasting impact; students come away with a higher motivation to create, a belief in their own voice, and a desire to share and listen to each other’s stories.  I especially was moved by her TED Talk entitled If I should Have a Daughter and the moving way she presents her own metamorphosis story.  In keeping with Goal 4: Innovative, Creative, and Critical Thinkers, this is such exciting and inspiring work.  Imagine the possibilities...

A team including Leslie Connor, Dr. Chris Bigelow, Johnny Phu, Ayva Thomas, and Niki Arnold-Smith worked with Christy Clausen to set the schedule for Sarah Kay’s visit to the district. She will be at several of our schools during the course of these three days and will be working with students and staff.  If you want to reserve seats at the public performance on the evening of March 26, please let Christy Clausen know as seating will be limited and it would be great to have students and staff be able to attend the evening performance that might not have a chance to see her during the day. Sarah Kay is simply amazing.... I will see you there.  We are so grateful to be learning into the future with our Foundation partners...

Additionally, the Northshore Foundation will provide two after-school teacher workshops with the Project Voice performers for our NSD educators.  All staff are all welcome to participate in these workshop sessions specifically designed for educators interested in learning about spoken-word performance/poetry techniques and practical applications to the classroom.  The March 25th session will focus on secondary grades, while March 27th will demonstrate ideas for elementary grades.  Registration for this professional development opportunity is available through our NSD online PD registration system. Clock hours will be provided.

Finally, in thinking about all that we are working on, playing within, and simply experiencing, I am reminded of one of my favorite characters and his sage advice; “At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself.”  — Alan Alda

Let’s savor the wilderness of the joyful weekend upcoming….

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Superintendent

 


 

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