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Dr. Ellen Perconti

November 2, 2021

Goldendale School Board is honored to receive the Small School District Board of the Year award from Washington State School Director Association (WSSDA). GSD’s Board is one of three chosen from the 34 Boards of Distinction for 2021. Steilacoom and Auburn Boards were honored as the medium and large district boards of the year.

WSSDA’s Board of Distinction application asked boards to illustrate how their actions exemplified visionary leadership and helped their schools close opportunity gaps. WSSDA indicated that the selection panel was impressed by GSD Board’s participation in the Change Team process, a process designed to move district leadership using dialogue that deepens understanding of the system and creates action based on this understanding. GSD’s Change Team efforts arose from the Board’s goals:

  • All children will achieve
  • All children will have quality teachers/staff
  • All children will be in safe, healthy learning environments
  • All children will have the support of the community through ongoing communication and connection.

These goals provided the impetus to look to accelerate the District’s growth and are resulting in three primary shifts within the District:

Shift 1 Redefining Achievement:  The board established a goal that all students will achieve. We started by exploring what achievement really means. The board cited examples of students who had excelled in terms of grades at school, but had struggled when leaving the school context.  They also cited students who had struggled in terms of grades at school who were now business owners in the community. Added to the Board’s concern was the context of COVID-19 and a heightened awareness regarding the importance of well-being. 

GSD is working towards a broader definition of achievement that includes self-understanding, connections, knowledge (content standards), and competencies (collaboration, communication, etc). In addition, we are working to ensure that we pay attention to the whole child throughout all the learning opportunities.

The board requested that we continue to grow this work and vision throughout the district.  And, that successes in implementation are celebrated, highlighting students’ growth toward this broader definition of achievement.

Shift 2 Safe and Healthy Learning Environment and Family Connection: The GSD board in 2019 identified that the learning environment in the district was not conducive to all students learning at high levels.  They used discipline, suspension, classroom exclusion, and state assessment data to develop an understanding of the students who were not engaging in active learning.

In order to create a culture for learning, GSD started the 2020-21 school year with Family Connections.  Each teacher met individually with students and family members during the first three days of school. In this meeting, the teacher learned more about the hopes and dreams of the family for their student and the needs of the family as we were starting with remote learning. These meetings provided a connection and foundation that was powerful for both families and teachers.  This process was so powerful that we continued it at the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Shift 3 Focal Students: GSD Board understood that the start of the 2020 school year was a stressful time for staff, students, and families. They were explicit in having high expectations for the district while offering understanding and grace in the context of the pandemic. This meant a careful balance in providing clear expectations while not layering too many new initiatives.

The GSD Change Team initiated the idea of working on lesson design to more fully engage students. Fourteen teachers representing each of the buildings participated in this powerful professional learning. The first step of the lesson design process was to identify one or two ‘least-served’ students in thei class.  Teachers were able to define and select these students based on their own criteria.  After identifying the student(s) the teachers interviewed them and then used the information they learned about the student in crafting their lessons. The impact to these specific students was immense.  And, the impact to these teachers’ practice is on-going. Some of these case studies are shared in the document attached. 

The GSD school board celebrated the success of the process and have asked that this work continue and expand.  The GSD board specifically stated the desire for staff to "stay hungry" in their learning. 

Congratulations to our School Board! 

 

The past 24 months have not been easy. GSD’s Board has navigated many challenges and continues to grow as a Board. The Board of the Year honor is not seen as an ending point, but as a push to grow and develop into the best leadership possible for the students of Goldendale.