Welcome to spring! Schools always have an energy surge this time of year as the days get longer and warmer. It’s like we are all verdantly emerging from the gray drizzle of winter, and even the hint of a sun ray is sure to draw a gathering of students outside to common areas to talk, eat, laugh, linger . . .
Watching this recent buzz of activity in the outdoor amphitheater at Foster High School, I recalled how many important things I have learned about my schools in this type of seemingly casual environment. Students, for the most part, are incredible self-advocates who want to speak up about their experiences; but I have discovered that if I want to understand their world, I have to seek them out in it. Among friends, on their “home turf,” in a less formal adult-kid power structure, students feel safe to talk — what’s going right? What’s not? How’s life?
This revelry sparked an “aha” moment several nights later during a community-wide meeting about the district’s emerging strategic plan. Those who came had a thoughtful, deep conversation about their hopes, dreams, and priorities for local students. Those who came, however, represented only a handful of residents in this community. Yes, we offered interpreters and food and advertised as widely as we could throughout the district — but, as I flashed back to my experience with students, I realized that this type of formal evening setting is likely outside the comfort level for many families.
So in addition to the next community-wide strategic plan meeting at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday, April 17, at Tukwila Elementary, I want to make a standing offer: LET ME COME TO YOU! Wherever you gather and feel connected to community, let me come there, to your home turf, where you are at ease and empowered to speak your truth. This could be a faith-based, service, civic, or business organization; it could even be your home or apartment complex.
I want to talk to you specifically about the strategic plan because it will be the roadmap that shapes our schools for years to come. It’s not my strategic plan. It’s our strategic plan. We are cultivating community for one Tukwila. But I understand that “strategic plan” sounds pretty corporate and daunting. Instead, think of it this way: I want to talk with you about your experiences with local schools and your expectations for how we educate children. You personally already have all the knowledge you need to be an expert for this conversation.
Please take me up on my offer. Come to this week’s meeting, or call me and I’ll come to you. We can talk about the strategic plan in the more formal sense or we can discuss any educational issues of interest to you. Our community liaisons — who connect schools with the Burmese-, Nepali-, Somali-, Spanish-speaking families —are more than willing to help facilitate these conversations.
I am at 206-901-8006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talk to you soon!
Dr. Nancy Coogan
Dr. Nancy Coogan is superintendent of the Tukwila School District.