COMMENTARY: New school year brings excitement, challenges

  • Wednesday, August 29, 2018 2:13pm
  • Opinion
Zabette Macomber (Courtesy Photo).

Zabette Macomber (Courtesy Photo).

It seems like just moments ago we were congratulating the class of 2018 for graduating and making us all so proud. And now we get to welcome the incoming kindergarten class of 2032.

Looking at the full cycle of a student’s career from kindergarten to senior, it reminds me again of the important job we all play in guiding, encouraging and supporting students as they grow and become young adults. This journey is watched by many: parents, teachers, administrators, relatives, friends — and school board members. With the board, we see the big picture of what’s happening at all three schools and how dedicated the staff is in helping students on their journeys.

Focusing just on the upcoming year, there are several things that I’m excited about and interested in for all our students and the district.

The first is welcoming our new superintendent, Dr. Slade McSheehy. After a great search with input from the community and an impressive list of candidates, we are so happy to have Slade lead the district. His enthusiasm for learning is infectious, and his past experiences as a counselor, elementary teacher, principal and assistant superintendent give him the knowledge to continue the district’s mission: “equipping every student to engage, thrive and contribute in an ever-changing world.”

Second on my list is welcoming our two new student representatives to the board: junior Margot Armstrong and senior Kevin Estrada. This is the first time VISD will have student voices on the board, a common practice in many Washington districts. The role of the representatives is to increase communication between students and the board. We’re looking forward to working with Margot and Kevin.

Third, the board met over the summer and reviewed what our priorities are for the coming year. Slade then shared these with the leadership team, who agreed. The priorities are, in no particular order, student safety, racial equity, special education, career connected learning (CTE), communications and the budget. We feel that these are areas we can continue to improve as we challenge ourselves to become a better district.

Next on my list is the capital bond project. The dynamic duo of our project manager, Brandy Fox, and our facilities director, Kevin Dickerson, have worked all summer long leading the work on a variety of projects. From a new paint job to protect the stucco at Chautauqua to the new locker rooms in McMurray to the remodeled K Building that houses FamilyLink and StudentLink, the projects are on time and on budget so far. But of course, the big news is the track and field, which is almost near completion. Please come to the Pirates first home football game (Sept. 14 vs. Cedar Park Christian) and check it out. We cannot thank the voters enough. You made these beautiful and much-needed upgrades possible.

The final item on my list is the McCleary Decision. Many of you know that the State Supreme Court finally approved the plan Olympia came up with to fully fund education. The plan is complicated, and we are learning more as the months pass. While the district did receive more money from the State, we also had a decrease in other revenues. The federal government decreased its funding, and simultaneously the levy money will be limited by a new state cap in 2019. Even though voters on Vashon have historically supported school levies, VISD will receive reduced funds from this source.

The money VISD received from the state included a 12 percent “regionalization” factor — a little boost to help districts out. However, almost all of Vashon’s neighboring districts were given 18 percent. What does this mean for us? We could have received almost $600,000 in additional money, but we now are left competing against other districts with the ability to attract and retain teachers with higher salaries.

What can we do about this? The Vashon Schools Foundation is running a campaign to get as many Vashon voters to sign cards that explain our situation. The foundation will collect these cards and deliver them to our representatives in Olympia. If you want to be part of this, there is more information on their website.

As always, we’re hitting the ground running come Sept. 4. I’m excited about what’s coming up this year — from advocating for the district in Olympia to the new student reps to the new track and field. But really, the best is knowing all of this continues to make each student’s journey better.

— Zabette Macomber is the chair of the Vashon school board.

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