Thursday Thoughts: Woodinville Visit, Inclusive Education, World Autism Month and More

What a great first week of April. I cherish the many opportunities we have to shape our future and nurture the positive energy that transforms our community and world. It is so often the simplest of acts, that when accumulated, support outrageous success. As we remember, we started this year focused on patience and not perfection, so I want to share a thought; “Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in the quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.”  — Mary Jean Irion. Thank you for all you each do...  And enjoy these spring days so precious in their glorious colors and new budding life.

This past week, we had our eighth Board SIP visit and traveled to Woodinville High School. These visits are so integral to the comprehensive work we do as a district. In highlighting the work of the school, Principal Kurt Criscione and his leadership team highlighted several aspects of the school work this year.  As part of the SIP visit, we were toured through various classes by student leaders.  Woodinville ASB President, Esh Sathiyamoorthy, shared; “I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with our school board and highlighting some of the great programs we have at Woodinville! The site visit was a great opportunity to understand the school board’s perspective on the opportunities Woodinville has to offer, and to reflect on the state of student involvement in my high school.”  Further, East Region Assistant Superintendent Becky Anderson, observed; “Kurt and his administrative team along with the entire school staff at WHS have successfully created the standard for what it means to know each student by name and need. Woodinville High School holds high expectations, incorporates individualization, and builds relationships - all the components which foster a true learning community.”  It is always so energizing to be out in the schools!!

In great news from NCHS, German teacher Katie Rombauer recently reported about the absolute fun our German programs had at German Immersion Camp in Carnation, WA.  According to Katie; “From March 22nd - 23rd, 20 German students from BHS, IHS, NCHS, and WHS spent 36 hours completely immersed in language at the annual German Immersion Camp in Carnation, WA. Each year, German students in levels 200-400 attend workshops, compete in events on teams, bake and cook, dance, play games, and present skits - all in German. Jade Keimig from NCHS said “The German weekend was so wonderful, I will never forget it! I have to admit, I was scared because I didn’t know if I could speak German for two days straight but I did it! It felt like we were one big family. Thank you again!” Susanne Kanning from Inglemoor has been the camp director since 2004 and NSD students have been attending since 1992. Many of her students have attended three years in a row. German Immersion Camp is held every spring and students from 15 high schools all over Washington state attend. The absolute best part of camp is seeing the students' pride in themselves, and the amount of confidence and fluency they gain over such a short period of time. I can't wait until next year!”  Wow, what a great idea and an even better experience!!

In accordance with our bold new strategic plan, we remain committed to nurturing equity-based inclusive education opportunities where every child, regardless of their abilities, is valued and given the supports they need to grow and succeed. When all students have the opportunity to learn and interact with each other, everyone benefits. To that end, we recognize the need for a clear and sustainable plan for transformational district-wide work, specifically focused on both defining our work and the implementation of a system of inclusion and inclusionary practices. We recognize the importance of this mandate in reducing inequities and as a cornerstone of equity and diversity work and disability justice. As we accept our responsibility for moving forward this important work, we acknowledge the need to commit time, energy, and resources to develop a more equitable system for each of our students and specific educational programming for all students with disabilities. To this end, we are creating an inclusion committee.  This committee will plan to start their initial work together this spring and earnestly work through the coming school year.  Please consider this opportunity to be part of the conversation and look for the call for committee member applications from our communications department in the coming days.  Imagine the possibilities…

I am excited to report that one of our very own Northshore SD leadership team members, Dr. Srinivas Khedam, has written an article that has been accepted for publication by the Association of Washington State Principals (AWSP).  The article highlighting the importance of inclusive leadership, is a thoughtful reflection on the important characteristics and impact of inclusive leadership.  AWSP has also asked Dr. Khedam to contribute to their blog and he plans to submit regular ideas that will be transformative statewide.  Dr. Khedam is currently both an administrator in our Equity and Diversity Department districtwide as well as the half time assistant principal at Lockwood Elementary. We are so proud of Dr. Khedam and his leadership influence for school leaders across our great state; imagine the possibilities…

April is World Autism Month. I continue to learn about the autism spectrum and how we, as educators and community members, can support those who are on the spectrum. According to Autism Speaks, "We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged." I encourage you to visit the website to learn more.  I also want to draw your attention to a provocative message below from Microsoft’s Director of Inclusive Hiring & Accessibility to celebrate World Autism Day.  Imagine the possibilities…

“Being inclusive is not something we simply do, but rather it stands for who we are. The value proposition for diversity and inclusion within Microsoft is increasingly clear — a diverse and inclusive workforce will yield better products and solutions for our customers, and better experiences for our employees. We all need to do our part to encourage new and different perspectives, solutions, and innovative ideas to surface from all our employees. Four years ago, on World Autism Awareness Day, we announced Microsoft’s Autism Hiring Program. Given that 80% of individuals on the autism spectrum are unemployed or underemployed, we knew there was an untapped pool of talented people who have the skills aligned to the work we are doing every day at Microsoft. Over the years, we have learned a lot about inclusive hiring and actively share our learnings with other employers interested in evolving their hiring programs. Over the years, we have continued to learn, evolve, and grow our own Autism Hiring Program. We changed our approach from a traditional interview to a cohort model where candidates come to our campus for a week-long experience to demonstrate their skills, gain feedback, and meet with hiring managers. Based on interest in the program from across the company, we have also seen an expansion of the types of roles where candidates are being hired. For example, we have grown from hiring mainly technical roles, like software engineers or data scientists, to more non-technical roles like customer support. In addition, we have recently expanded the program outside of Redmond, WA, with new pilot programs at our campuses in Fargo, ND and Vancouver, BC. We have also created a network of employers with the same objective, and we have partnered together to expand employment opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum. If we bring organizations together to focus on inclusive hiring, we can accelerate progress towards breaking down barriers and changing the unemployment rate for these candidates.”

As an update on my sojourn through the district, I have now visited 680 classrooms as of today. It is so great to get out and meet our students and staff. There are so many amazing moments that I cherish from my visits. Never doubt that regardless of your role in this work, that you are making a difference! I had a great visit at Lockwood Elementary earlier this week. My heart beats strongest when I am in the schools...

And so, as we approach the coming spring break, I suggest we each contemplate the thoughts of Jennifer Lee; “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”  I wish for each of you a joyful and energizing week.

Warmest regards,
Michelle Reid, Ed.D.



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