Update from San Juan Island School District superintendent | Guest column

Submitted by Kari McVeigh

San Juan Island School District Superintendent

The school year has started and we are already making sure that each one of our students is well served in our school district. And because it is a new school year, we have new people and plans to share with you! First, we are extremely pleased to welcome our new staff: Shannon Quishenberry, English language learner; Lowell Jons, fourth-grade; Jenn Furber, elementary art; Kristin Thomas, middle school and high school math; and John Boyd, district assessment coordinator and truancy liaison. Each new staff member brings individual talents, enhancing our strong and vibrant school community.

We have added facility upgrades and strategies to make sure our students are safe in their schools and classrooms. All our secondary buildings have new locking systems to help secure these sites. Energy efficient lighting has been installed and the schools sparkle under the brightness. Most importantly, we have updated our emergency preparedness plans, adding district-wide consistency to our responses to natural or man-made emergencies. We will practice drills throughout the year to ensure we are fully prepared.

We have integrated a more collaborative approach to special education services. Now general education elementary teachers will have more time to work with their special education colleagues in designing lessons to meet the unique needs of our special needs students.

We have a beautiful greenhouse at the elementary school making “living science” available to all our younger students. “Doing science” is the key to learning science.

New families have joined our district from off-island locales. We welcome all to this fabulous learning community and our wonderful island.

We are engaged in a year-long focus to better understand how trauma, pain and adversity impact students’ ability to learn and to discover what we, as educators, can do to help heal these students and remove barriers to learning. Teachers are learning to implement instructional practices that will promote higher levels of student learning. It is very important that students understand that they are in a safe and protective learning environment. I am extremely proud of our teaching staff for taking on this inspiring work.

Our 2017-18 state test data has been released, and overall our students continue to outperform the state with a few exceptions (fifth-, 11th- and eighth-grade math, however, 11th-grade science scores beat the state scores). High school graduation rates continue to be over 90 percent and our advanced placement students are soaring in their AP exams. Our newly formed instructional leadership teams will be reviewing all of these data to determine what changes can be instituted to better monitor student performance results and to institute new practices that will help improve student learning.

We are truly blessed to have such great students, great staff, and you, our amazing supportive community, without whom it would be much harder for our students to learn at their highest potential.