A path to success for every child . . .
When you first elected me six years ago, I promised to improve our school district by focusing on community engagement, innovation, and equity. Through collaboration and the hard work of staff, families, and students, we’ve made big strides in these areas. But we still have work to do.
As your school board member, I’ve prioritized visiting schools, meeting with our parent-leader organizations, listening to students, and learning from educators about what is working and what we can do better.
We’ve leveraged the success of Zoom meetings started during the pandemic and now offer fully accessible remote meetings with in person, remote, and written public comment options. We're hosting virtual community forums online to answer community members questions in real time. We’ve expanded our use of community surveys and started using a school climate survey. These tools are incredibly valuable for learning in detail what students, families, and educators think about our schools. We’ve also engaged family and community leaders in legislative advocacy so that we can educate our state-level decision-makers about the kind of support we need in Olympia.
The best surveys are still no substitute for student voice. So we’ve also increased the number of student representatives on our board from one to four. Our students have started their own district-wide student equity committee where they can work together to tackle common student concerns. Next year we will host our first-ever youth advisory boards for middle and high school students.
If re-elected, I will continue to prioritize student voice and influence in decision-making. I will continue to listen to the community and prioritize policies and funding decisions that benefit all students.
Olympia is known as an innovative district that encourages educators and families to dream up and advocate for unique learning models. Over the years, this has resulted in many successful programs, such as Avanti High School, the ORLA Montessori program, and the Freedom Farm at Olympia High School. At the same time, we have continued to increase access to advanced learning opportunities such as International Baccalaureate at Capital High School and College in the High School at Olympia High School. In both our middle and high schools, we have increased hands-on learning through career and technical classes. In our elementary schools, we have nearly doubled the amount of enrichment instruction students receive in art, music, and PE.
This focus on innovation and academic excellence has resulted in continued graduation rates of over 90% (despite a global pandemic), reduced disparities in access to advanced coursework in high school, and promising reading and math growth for many student groups.
All of this program growth and academic success is exciting, and now we will need to work together to find sustainable long-term solutions to fund these innovations and advanced learning opportunities.
If re-elected, I will work to expand access to innovative and advanced learning options and continue to use student data to measure success. I will work with students, families, and educators at the Freedom Farm to find them a permanent home and support them as they vision and plan for a full four-year program. And, I will make sure we have policies in place to welcome new students to our district who are looking for the kind of dynamic and challenging education they can only get in Olympia.
Olympia can be a very welcoming community, and there are spaces in our schools that have done excellent work historically to create a sense of belonging for all students. But we still have work to do. When I met with student focus groups in winter 2023, they shared with me how athletics and activities; art, music, and theatre; libraries; and many individual classrooms had made them feel supported and safe to share their authentic selves and have important conversations–especially post-pandemic. I believe the way forward is to listen to students when they tell us where we are achieving educational equity and where we can grow to better serve all students.
Since 2017 we’ve expanded district-wide support for engaging in Pride Month, Black Lives Matter at School, and other observances. We’ve supported school-based equity teams and offered training in leading for equity. We’ve created new positions and funded programming to establish a Native education program and support students and educators who identify as people of color. As a board, we also adopted an additional staffing enhancement for high-poverty schools. Our Equity Policy Steering Committee has spent the last year listening to community members as they work to develop an equity policy for our district that we hope to adopt this fall.
At the same time, our students, families, and educators have said there are persistent structural barriers to equity, and they can’t keep waiting for us to take action. So, this year I began a policy review of all our district policies using a Citizens Advisory Committee. With the help of a fellow board member, a dedicated committee of community volunteers, and an equity review tool, we will deliver improved and more equitable policies to our community by Fall 2023.
If re-elected, I would continue to keep the Board focused on our responsibility to use policy to ensure the best education for every Olympia student regardless of their identity and experiences. I would continue to support investments in the spaces, activities, and people who create a sense of belonging for our beautifully diverse students and families.