News from the SJI school district

Submitted by Kari McVeigh

San Juan Island School District Superintendent

What a wonderful start of the school year! The schools were immaculately clean, the teachers created warm and inviting learning environments, and all administrative staff worked hard to ensure that all was organized and moving smoothly. We are happy to be fully back in action, serving our treasured students and the families of San Juan Island.

This year we welcome our new elementary principal, Caspar van Haalen and our new Special Services Director, Ms. Becky Bell. Both have quickly become trusted and valued additions to our administrative team.

Principal Fred Woods has stepped up as my superintendent intern. In addition to his current duties as middle and high school principal, he will be meeting with me regularly to learn all aspects of being a superintendent.

When you see Becky, Fred or Caspar, be sure to give them a huge smile for working hard on behalf of this remarkable district.

We have received the results of our student’s state-mandated exams and are grateful for the excellent teaching that continues to show such positive results. Nearly all grade levels scored well above the state average for both English and Math. Fifth-grade English Language Arts virtually tied the average state scores. Some grade levels were over the top above the State.

Our graduation rate continues to rise, far exceeding the state averages. Our Special Education students, English Learners and low-income students also scored well above state averages. Although these students are doing well, there continues to be a small gap between these groups and the rest of the student population. We are committed to decreasing this gap over time.

As Superintendent Intern, Woods has convened a Tech/Capital Levy committee (staff and community members) to look at the needs of our district to stay current on technology for both students and staff and to ensure that schools are safe and modernized for the years to come. The committee will provide the Board of Directors a list of projects to present to our community in a February levy. We are always deeply grateful to our generous community for keeping our students safe, in well-maintained buildings, and equipped with the technology needed to prepare for this ever-changing world.

Both Mr. Woods and I have started to engage mixed stakeholder groups (staff, parents and community members) in strategic planning meetings. Over the next few months, these groups will define shared cultural belief statements describing how each member of our school community will be responsible for creating shared responsibility and accountability toward achieving district goals.

They will also look at a host of both quantitative and qualitative data to create districtwide actionable goals. Once goals are established, we will create action plans with specific timelines for activities, outcomes and deliverables. This will all be made public during the course of this school year. Stay tuned!

We’ve worked hard to create a balanced budget with a healthy end fund balance this year. However, last spring the state unexpectedly capped how much of our voter-approved levy that we are able to access. This has the effect of making future budgets less solvent.

I am meeting with our legislative representatives in the house and senate, as well as with other superintendents of districts also unfairly hit with this levy cap, to identify legislative remedies to try to achieve during the next Legislative session, in January.

None of the 30 districts across the state unfairly hit with this levy cap can solve this problem by cutting current budgets. We need legislators to act. I am happy to speak with any of our service groups or individuals who would like to understand more about these issues, and how you can help.

I continue to be humbled and proud to serve this gem of district. I thank you for your support, suggestions, and guidance and am open to discuss with you this truly amazing place any time. Feel free to call if you have questions or concerns.