It’s hard to believe that we are already at the mid-point of our school year. This is when our students get their grades and set new goals for themselves - and our school district also uses this point in the year to review our goals, measure our progress, and set new targets to help students succeed.
Last August, the School Board established four focus areas for the 2020-21 school year.
- Identify Opportunity Gaps and Target Interventions to Specific Needs
- Provide Safe and Secure Learning Environments
- Promote Wellness, Positive Mental Health and School Connectedness, and
- Strengthen Effective Community Communications and Outreach
I want to take this opportunity to share the work done by our amazing staff in each of the focus areas:
To close the opportunity gap, our staff has been implementing “inclusionary practices” – which are based on the fundamental belief that all students are competent, capable, should be held to high expectations and have a right to academic and social emotional learning opportunities in the general education classroom. Our school teams meet weekly to address challenges and create solutions and targeted interventions, and staff across the district are providing small group in-person and remote services to address individual student needs. We have also implemented new technology resources for all students, with a special emphasis on increasing access to general education for students with disabilities. While the pandemic is creating inequitable educational opportunities, we are doing our best to find ways to help every student who may be struggling.
Our work to provide safe and secure learning environments has focused on COVID-19. Our staff have increased cleaning schedules, upgraded school ventilation systems, and implemented a COVID-19 Safety Committee to recommend and monitor safety improvements. Our custodial and maintenance staff are outstanding and work hard to keep our facilities safe for staff and students. For our families who are not ready to return to school due to COVID-19, we also implemented an optional online learning program for the year, which serves about 10% of our families.
To promote wellness, positive mental health, and school connectedness, I’m very excited about a new screening tool we implemented, called Panorama. This tool allows us to better identify student issues and target specific help to students in need. Nearly 2,000 students were screened earlier in the year and we now have more conclusive data about which students feel connected to school. Teachers are using this data to help guide their practice and support specific students.
Finally, last month I shared some of our community communications and outreach work – specifically related to our thought exchanges. We also implemented a new tool for parent communication this year, called ParentSquare. Over 2,300 of our families are using the application and most are interacting regularly with our staff through this application. This is a significant increase and improvement in family engagement compared to prior years.
There is always room for continued improvement, but I’m very pleased with the work we’ve been able to accomplish so far, especially given the issues we have faced. As we progress into 2021 and the second half of our school year, I am excited for the work yet to be done, and am confident we will see continued progress and improvement thanks to our great staff, families, and our SHSD community.
Dr. Kathi Weight, Superintendent