By Peter Woodbrook
For Vashon Island School District
From Oct. 18 to 20, nearly 60 teachers, administrators, board members, and Vashon community members bundled up and headed to the Vashon Island School District’s (VISD) maintenance shop to begin work on a new strategic plan for the district.
Crucially, among those in attendance were roughly 15 middle and high school students each day.
“It is very important to hear from the people who are mainly affected by this strategic plan, which is the students,” said sophomore Will Frith. “It is important to get a variety of different students with different viewpoints directly involved and given a voice, and I think that was mainly achieved.”
The students sat and engaged in the process alongside everyone taking part.
They poured over data and statistics from student surveys, state assessments, and course enrollment demographics. They brainstormed, contributed, and workshopped ideas and opinions during small group exercises. They spoke up for themselves and fellow students throughout the entire process, much to the appreciation of the adults in the room.
Superintendent Slade McSheehy said, “Hearing students speak about their lived experiences in our schools helps to identify where we need to improve.”
The strategic plan acts as a roadmap for the Vashon Island School District, and its primary aim is to align all community stakeholders on a shared vision with common goals and a unified direction for the district’s educational efforts. The students who participated ranged from eighth-graders at McMurray to seniors at Vashon High School. Senior Theo Newcomb was asked by VHS Principal Danny Rock if he wanted to attend and went into the first day of the strategic planning process with an open mind.
“I’ve had a lot of fun as a student here and I want everyone to have as good of an experience throughout their time,” said Newcomb. “The school system can always be better, and I want to help it get there. That is why I’m involved, even though I’ll graduate this year. It is important to try and make changes for the better, and as a senior, I can have that influence.”
Despite the dense material and the number of adults in the room, eighth-grader Hazel Nielsen felt welcomed and empowered to speak her mind freely and honestly.
“As students, we know what is happening in the school,” said Nielsen. “It feels validating to know that we were wanted at the meetings and I liked hearing everyone’s opinions, while also having the room to provide my own.”
Mutiu Fagbayi, president and CEO of Performance Fact, Inc., facilitated the three-day workshop of the Core Planning Team. The Core Planning Team takes the lead for the broad direction of the strategic plan and integrates the feedback and perspectives of other district and community teams along the way.