Welcome to the 2012-2013 school year – my first year as your new Superintendent.
Not just in leadership, but on many fronts, Tacoma Public Schools has reached a new crossroads.
Student achievement, strategic planning, academic innovation, financial stability, labor relations and community partnerships all will have a turn in the spotlight in the coming months.
We enter this school year with a measure of financial stability unmatched since our economy took a turn for the worse – due in part to past strategic budget decisions made by our school board. That stability was bolstered by a State Supreme Court ruling earlier this year in a case called McCleary v. Washington, which determined our state had not lived up to its constitutional obligation to adequately fund public education. That good news forestalled efforts to balance the state’s budget deficit on the backs of our public schools. Instead, for the first time in a number of years, the Legislature held off making cuts that would have crippled our efforts to teach students.
That stability allows us to refocus our attention squarely on student achievement. We have completed Year 2 of our new math curriculum adoption and Year 2 of our federally-funded reinvention of three previously underperforming middle schools – Giaudrone, Stewart and Jason Lee. Year 1 of both projects showed encouraging results. We anticipate significant improvement in achievement district-wide in math and at our middle schools.
As I step into this new role, I have several academic achievement issues that demand this district’s attention:
- First, we have strengthened our data collection tools so we can better track each student’s progress and hold all levels of the school system accountable as we find ways to help students do better in school. This portfolio of tools includes an online “parent portal” where you can stay in touch with your child’s progress like never before. Stay tuned from more details from your school at the start of the year.
- Second, we need to continue the honest conversation about race and how it affects the achievement of our students and where we can alter our practices to help more students from all backgrounds.
- Third, as a central administration, we need to support our schools and teachers by giving them the tools and training they need to get their work done in the classroom.
Our focus on innovation, which took hold in a grand way last school year, will continue. Now that the state of Washington has chosen Tacoma as the first and only district-wide Innovation Zone, we have much more work to do developing new, innovative programs and supporting the ones we already offer. We will have a community outreach effort to solicit ideas and input from you about how to do things differently and creatively in our schools to improve student achievement.
Nearly two years ago, as the Deputy Superintendent, I worked with the School Board to draft and adopt the district’s strategic plan. Now the Board is preparing to revise and update the plan with new goals and metrics to help guide our work into the future.
You also will begin to hear news about the upcoming launch of a new foundation being formed by a cadre of caring, committed local leaders to help support Tacoma Public Schools. Spearheaded by former educators, including retired Superintendent James Shoemake, and local philanthropists, we believe the foundation’s support will help us where we need it most – to support our efforts to dramatically increase our graduation rate. There will be opportunities for you to get involved in the effort, and I hope you will.
As you can see, our district faces many crossroads. There’s no greater time to succeed in all these areas, and I’m honored to lead the district at such a critical time.
Carla Santorno, Superintendent