When I met recently with all staff in our Bellingham Public Schools, we talked about what it would take to make this best school year ever. Personally and professionally, how could each of us, as students, staff, parents and community members, make this the best school year ever?
I've had staff members tell me they spent time not only discussing this at school, but also with their own families as they set out to establish positive routines for a new school year. It is a great lesson for kids, as well as an important reminder for us as adults, that best doesn't always mean the easiest. Sometimes our best times are reached through overcoming adversity or when we are the most challenged. These conversations have a strong connection to the Bellingham Promise that we've built collectively with our community. The Bellingham Promise captures what we, as a community, desire for all children in our great city. It includes a vision, mission, outcomes for students and five key strategies to help us get there: Great teaching with strong support; early childhood education; innovation and flexibility; a one schoolhouse approach; and student, family and community engagement.
We look forward to having some of our staff members share their exciting work in these areas in upcoming columns this fall.
Our staff are currently in the process of refining our work priorities as they relate to the Bellingham Promise and developing a variety of ways to measure our progress. This includes both how we measure and report academic achievement as well as life and learning skills, personal attributes and ethics - all of which we've heard from our business community are highly valuable in future employees.
Our class of 2024, current first graders, is the first cohort citywide to experience full-time kindergarten last year, thanks to our community's strong support. By winter of 2012, they already had as much learning time as they would have previously in a part-time program at the end of a school year. This means that as first graders, they are beginning at a learning level not previously experienced. Kristi Dominguez, a kindergarten teacher, is serving as our early childhood education coordinator this year to support our primary teachers at all 14 elementary schools and strengthen our community connections. Nationally and statewide, a community's commitment to early education is garnering attention as we have been asked to share our work with many others.
We plan to closely track our class of 2024's progress through the years and have posted a video our on website at bellinghamschools.org to allow you to get to know some of them as they share their hopes and dreams for the future.
I hope you'll take a moment to watch the video, as one of our little learners shares that when he grows up he wants to be a second grader. For others, they want to be just like their parents. In the Bellingham Promise, with the help of our community, our dedicated school board has set high aspirations for every one of our children.
It will take all of us working together to make this the best school year ever.
Greg Baker is Superintendent of Bellingham Public Schools.