There are many wonderful things happening within Lake Washington School District, but much remains to be done. I’d like to capitalize on what we’ve been doing right – our high graduation rates and academic achievements – while improving on areas in which we fall short.
Equity and Inclusion
A few years ago, LWSD began focusing on inclusive education in several of our elementary schools. We’ve partnered with OSPI, the University of Washington’s Haring Center for Inclusive Education and the University of Minnesota’s TIES Center to become a model district for our state’s Inclusionary Practices Professional Development Project. Although the district’s focus has been on our Preschool and K-8 educational programs I have seen firsthand the benefits of inclusion among high school students, too. In fact, a program one of my sons piloted to demonstrate his computer skills will now be used across our high schools. Inclusion allows our students the opportunity to collaborate with their peers and show others how they might work together for their mutual benefit. More than one student has discovered a previously unknown career path after being educated in an inclusive setting.
Our students have a lot to learn not only from their teachers but from each other as well.
Recently, the LWSD Board recently adopted its Anti-Racism/Anti-Discrimination Resolution (the first in LWSD) and its Operational Expectations which the group has titled “Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion in Education”. (Resolution No. 2318: Anti-Racism, Anti-Discrimination, Equity, and Inclusion in Education) Our intent is to eliminate differences in the education, experiences, treatment and opportunities of our students, staff, and families. This policy statement is only the first step. Once this general statement is adopted, the Superintendent will come back to the Board with his ideas on how he will put this policy into practice – steps such as increasing the diversity of staff and the numbers of under-represented minority members, providing districtwide opportunities for the full inclusion of students of all abilities, and the like. We have received lots of input from students, parents, teachers, and community members. I hope your input continues as we move from this template, a bare-bones outline of the Board’s expectations, to fully fleshing out how we will become an equitable, inclusive, anti-racist organization.
Clear, Concise Communications
I love hearing from you whether it be an email to my Board address (email@example.com), before, during or after a Board meeting, at a PTSA event or community gathering or in comments posted to various pages on Facebook. *
Some have expressed frustration with the communications received from the district. Although we are making information more accessible, displayed online or via email, text, telephone calls, and printed materials that can be translated into many different languages, there is still room for improvement.
All too often important information seems to get buried. Rather than us announcing a change upfront, the reader is forced to wait through a detailed history and/or review of decision-making principles before getting the news. As a communications professional and parent, this frustrates me, too. What I can tell you is that I have been advocating for clarity and using the inverted pyramid writing style (starting with the BIG NEWS, followed by supporting information) every chance I get, and I will continue to do so.
Beginning with my own high school days, through college classes, and throughout my professional career I have been committed to the principles of journalism. Gathering accurate information and disseminating it widely in a readily digestible manner has been my life’s work. This is one area into which I would like to see our schools expand. Some have debate clubs and journalism groups, and I have seen some school-sponsored videos, but formal journalism classes and debate classes are lacking. In this age of the flippant label “fake news” and the rise of the “citizen reporter”, we owe it to our students to teach them daily what reliable, responsible, principled reporting and editing entail.
It is also imperative that students learn how to recognize and separate news from opinions and fact from fiction. A class in Debate capitalizes on the lessons students have received from their history, science, and composition teachers on gathering accurate information, then using that information to argue each side of an issue. Students also learn to “think on their feet” and respectfully address those whose perspective is different from theirs.
As many of you have witnessed, Journalism and Debate are crucial life skills in contemporary society. They should be taught in formal classes throughout LWSD.
* Please send any election-related emails to: MarkStuart4Education@outlook.com.