By NANCY COOGAN
Superintendent, Tukwila School District
How is that we are at the end of another school year already? It’s like we blinked, and suddenly the first day of school has become the last — time flies when every day is filled with good, challenging, intentional learning! That’s how 2015-16 felt as superintendent, and I hope the same is true for you and your students.
Looking back at our list of annual accomplishments, I have to start at the top: Our graduates. Each diploma that we hand out is the most important achievement for our district. What goes into that diploma? At the minimum, 13,351 hours of classroom learning, hundreds of teachers and support staff, and unquantifiable amounts of determination and resiliency. A diploma is the beginning of opportunity and choice for our students — the culmination of our promise to prepare students for the world — and it’s also the ticket to wide-open possibilities.
I couldn’t be prouder of our graduates. Many overcame unbelievable personal challenges to cross that ceremonial stage on June 10. To our Class of 2016, I want you to know this: The diploma in your hand is proof that you can do anything; you are limitless with infinite possibilities. Graduating from Foster, in fact, gives you a distinct advantage because you understand, much more than students from other high schools, what it means to have a global perspective, to think in terms of humanity and not race or nationality, and to embrace and let your community embrace you. I am excited to see how you shape our collective future. I’m excited to see you cultivate into 21st century contributing members of our society.
Because we are so very proud of our graduates, we started a new tradition this year that I want to grow next year and beyond. Last Friday, we took our seniors, in full caps and gowns, to our elementary schools and Showalter Middle School. They paraded the hallways like royalty, receiving applause, cards, and high-fives from admiring younger students. Some staff had tears of gratitude, seeing the final result of their dedication to educating these seniors years before. And the younger students saw what it looks like to work hard and be successful in school, imagining themselves coming back in a cap and gown. That’s why we named this parade of seniors Fostering Our Future Bulldogs. It was a joyous, inspiring event and sends the message at each elementary school and soon our birth to five center that graduation begins there!
Looking back at other great milestones this school year, I need to say one more time to the entire community: Thank you for your support of our operations levy, technology levy, and construction bond. These measures are an investment in our schools and community, and we will all reap the rewards. Not only are we going to be able to maintain and protect our building infrastructure, but we are going to lead the nation in innovative, hands-on, minds-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) and early learning spaces. We sold our first bonds on May 18, and we are full-steam ahead planning the much-needed expansions and modernizations.
Our schools also had an incredible year. Our graduation rate increased 15 percentage points overall, with some subgroups like Hispanics and Special Education growing by more than 30 percentage points. We were nationally recognized in an elite group of districts for creating higher-education opportunities for historically marginalized students. Thorndyke was a state School of Distinction for increasing math and literacy scores, and we saw similarly impressive gains at Showalter in Language Arts and Foster in math. Our schools continued to create an environment of great caring and inclusion for all students, through efforts like our Day of Solidarity at Showalter, the Kindness Club at Cascade View, “Orange Wednesdays” with highlighted character traits at Thorndyke, and multi-cultural educational opportunities like Spanish classes and Somali Play and Learn events at Tukwila Elementary. And did I mention that we achieved our goal of being able to offer every single student at each school a FREE nutritional breakfast when they arrive in the morning?
Wow! It’s been a lot of work and a lot of fun in 2015-16 — but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Relish in the summer months because we’re going to be hitting the ground running when school begins on Sept. 6! Meanwhile, enjoy the world that we call Tukwila.
Dr. Nancy Coogan
Tukwila School Supt. Dr. Nancy Coogan can be reached at 206-901-8006 or at email@example.com