Taking stock: District charts future learning

Our work in the Tukwila School District is evolving and we are excited about the work we have completed in December, called Taking Stock. Experts from the Schlechty Center, a private, non-profit organization committed to partnering with education leaders, facilitated a two-day conversation at the Tukwila Community Center which helped the district to examine where we are and where we want to be in terms of transforming our district to a more effective learning organization, while shedding some of the bureaucratic ways that hinder us from connecting with our communities.

Approximately 75 individuals participated to learn and share their experiences to help inform our future. Attendees included Mayor Allan Ekberg, four members from the district’s Board of Directors – Jan Bolerjack, Dave Larson, Edna Morris and Tracy Russell – Tukwila Education Association President Brian Seigel; Tukwila Classified Education Association President Katrice Cyphers; Service Employees International Union President Maria Edwards; and Principal Group Administrator Brett Christopher. There was a good cross section of district and community participants including teachers, service personnel, family liaisons, parents, business and industry representatives, postsecondary educational leaders and residents. The highlight of the workshop was our panel of 10 students from Foster High School and Showalter Middle School.

We began our conversation centered on examining the historical perspectives of the district and the city from 1970 to 2017 for the purpose of developing a shared understanding of the need for change to inform a future orientation. The result of this discussion was to develop a common understanding of the nature of the problems and opportunities that confront the school district and base our discussions of these issues on a common body of fact and information.

The conversation continued by examining the district’s core business using a tool called the Images of Schools. We examined the image of our schools as where we perceived ourselves in 2017 as students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendent and district office and school board. Our viewpoints varied in terms of what the district’s core business is and is not; but what we all agreed to at the end of this conversation was that our district’s focus must be on designing engaging academic work for students and leading them to success in that work.

So where do we go from here? Over the next few months, the district’s effort will focus on its capacity to create and deliver on its core focus, designing engaging academic work for students and leading them to success in that work. We will use the Schlechty Center’s 10 System Capacity Standards to develop our strategic action:

• Developing a shared understanding of the need for change

• Developing shared beliefs and vision

• Developing a focus on students and on the quality of work provided to students

• Developing structures for participatory leadership

• Developing structures for results-oriented decision making

• Developing structures for continuity

• Providing ongoing support

• Fostering innovation and flexibility

• Employing technology

• Fostering collaboration

On behalf of the district, we appreciate our communities’ support and look forward to continuing this important conversation. In early January, the district will publish a calendar of meeting dates of how we will move forward with our work. Happy holidays and enjoy your time with family and friends during this season of reflection and joy. And, a hearty thank you to the community for all the outreach services provided for individuals and families in need during this time of the year.

Interim Tukwila School Superintendent Judith Berry can be reached at 206-901-8037 or at berryj@tukwila.wednet.edu.

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