11/01/2010: "Superintendent’s Corner"
By Rick Thompson
As I write this school district update for the community I am reminded of my nephew who attends public school in another state. I think of him because he is in his last year of high school. The oldest in his family, high hopes ride upon him as he makes the careful selection of a life after high school. Is he prepared? Will his studies pay off? Should he attend college? Where? How much does it really cost? These are decisions that must be addressed for him and for millions of other students upon whose success our future relies.
I am also reminded again during this political season about the open and sometimes contentious nature of our democracy. One report shared that a candidate had run 5,000 ads while another spent over 140 million dollars to fund her campaign. Elections matter. Our democracy, if it is to thrive and provide a means of governing that is preferable to other forms of government, demands an educated and informed populace. Our school system provides the foundation.
I continue to be impressed with the partnership the school district enjoys with our community. The San Juan Public Schools Foundation organized another successful phone-a-thon. The district continues to work with the San Juan Prevention Coalition to connect about ways to help our students make healthy lifestyle choices. The Islands Museum of Art has provided funding for an Artist-in-Residence at Friday Harbor Elementary School. These are just a few examples of how the San Juan community works hard to provide expertise, funding, and emotional support for our students and staff.
Our district leadership team is developing a district-wide Theory of Action, which will articulate what actions we will undertake to ensure that our students receive the highest quality education possible. Our work so far has focused on teacher knowledge and skills, academically challenging curriculum, and student engagement in their own learning. We are using the work of the Public Education Leadership Project at Harvard University and Sociologist Phillip Schlechty in our discussions.
As you can see from across the country no amount of money or unremitting charismatic leadership can instantly solve the complex problems found in our public schools. I commend our school board for their commitment to supporting a cohesive framework for school improvement.
Last, a word about finances. This coming year the district will put before you neither a maintenance and operations (M&O) levy, nor a capital projects levy. The district has now paid off all outstanding bonds (long term debts for land and capital facilities). The district is in good financial shape thanks to prudent cost cutting measures and community support. However, we anxiously await the results of the Nov. 2nd election as well as the upcoming legislative regular session which begins in January to see any impacts on K-12 education.
Many of our K-12 programs have been cut over the last two years. Our goal is to preserve K-12 class size, teacher professional development, and overall resources which are required to deliver a high quality, well rounded education for every student. Public education is an investment in our own future.
Please let me know how our district is doing. Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance to you, your family or your organization.