As I reflect on the milestones and unique challenges of the past year within the Vashon Island School District, I am proud to say that these experiences have underscored our district’s resilience and commitment to our Vashon Promise that every student is Welcomed, Known, and Treasured.
I am also humbled by the talented staff that serve our students every day, and by our amazing community partners that show up with their support year after year. These have been the cornerstones for our success in 2023 and will continue to be the key to our success in 2024.
Overshadowing the year were two teacher investigations, which demanded tough decisions and resolve from our school board. Our school and board faced these challenges head-on, prioritizing the well-being of our students above all else. Our students, staff, and community suffered greatly from these incidents. Yet with the support of the DOVE Project, we have grown in our commitment to transparency, fortified our efforts to enhance student safety, and have begun to rebuild community trust.
Regional and local enrollment have continued to decline, and still we’ve remained steadfast in balancing our budget while maximizing the impact of public dollars. It’s a testament to our team’s commitment to fiscal responsibility while prioritizing educational excellence as we see graduation rates and passage of Advanced Placement exams continue to be among the highest in the state.
One of our proudest achievements was the successful lobbying of the state legislature, resulting in increased funding for student support services. The advocacy efforts of our community, alongside our students’ inspiring leadership in campaigning for increased legislative funding, have been pivotal in securing resources vital to ensuring the physical and mental health needs of our youth are addressed.
Our equity initiative has been in full swing with the implementation of the Universal Design for Learning framework, growth of student affinity groups, flying the Pride Flag during the month of June, and continuing to focus on removing barriers for historically disadvantaged students.
Our family engagement coordinator continued to make remarkable strides in advocating for multilingual parents, fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment. Their efforts have been instrumental in bridging gaps and ensuring that every voice within our diverse community is heard and valued.
Moving into 2024, I’m excited about seeing our revitalized Vashon PTO bring our community together with weekly and monthly celebrations. Collaboration with funding partners such as the Vashon Schools Foundation and Partners in Education will remain pivotal in realizing our goals, ensuring that our students have access to the resources and experiences they need to thrive.
Music Wednesdays at Chautauqua will continue to widen the smiles on our faces, and our commitment to cultural exchange remains strong, with plans to continue our rich tradition of VHS student exchanges with Costa Rica and Japan. These experiences enrich our students’ perspectives and broaden their horizons.
In 2024, we will also be addressing ongoing safety and security improvements by asking our community to approve our capital and technology levy, prioritizing the well-being of our students and staff.
With renewed funding and support from our community, we will be able to replace Chautauqua’s fire control system and playground, refurbish aging facilities at McMurray Middle School, and upgrade HVAC systems at all three buildings.
Finally, at the end of 2023, we bid farewell to esteemed board members, and at the same time, we eagerly welcomed a committed new team of board directors. These are directors who will ensure continuity of implementing our strategic plan while also providing unique perspectives and innovation in our pursuit of academic excellence.
It has been an absolute honor and privilege to serve our island community throughout 2023, witnessing the dedication and resilience of our students, staff, families, board of directors and community partners.
As we stand at the beginning of a new year, I am filled with hope and enthusiasm for what lies ahead in 2024. Here’s to an amazing year!
Slade McSheehy is the superintendent of the Vashon Island School District.