Kent School District  | May 24, 2019
Dear KSD Community,

Greetings and warm wishes to everyone. With election filing period over, we expect a sea of change coming to our district and it seemed like the perfect time to discuss the voices of the KSD community.

At our April 17 capital facilities and communications work session , Executive Director of Communications, Melissa Laramie, walked us through the ‘voices’ we may or may not hear in our communities. Through great visuals, she helped the community understand the following about the KSD landscape:

  • 150,000 voices which represents residents, registered voters, and workers in seven municipalities: Covington (100%), Kent, Renton, Black Diamond, Auburn, Federal Way, and Maple Valley.
  • 25,400 students who bring their unique perspectives, culture, values, dreams, and needs into the classroom every day.
  • 18,000 families who entrust KSD with their children each day, and whom the district relies on being an active partner in the education of their children.
  • 3,400 Team KSD staff members serving our families and students.
  • 4,048 volunteers who graciously give their generous time to our district.

The power of public discourse and activism remains central to our democracy. While all voices are important, we know that very often the louder the voice, the more attention the message receives. During our community conversations at Kentwood, we heard from passionate students about potential reduction in our music programs. It jarred memories of 2005 when jazz band cuts were discussed in the district. Students and parents, including my son and I, packed a board meeting and successfully spoke to dissuade the district from eliminating zero hour jazz band programs.

While the public sees and hears those who speak out on social media or at a board meeting, there are many who are active participants in the process and communicate to the Board in their own way - this could take the form of emails, research materials sent to the Board, phone calls, or face-to-face communication which helps the Board see a balanced view of what is best for all of our students. After a recent board meeting, a teacher approached the dais and said she was puzzled that the Board unanimously voted for a curriculum despite the expressed dissent from a teacher who spoke against it. When board members decide at the dais, it should be noted that we are hearing from constituents across the district, and not just at the podium on the day of the board meeting.

What the above instances signify is the need for a dialogue surrounding the many challenges to decision-making: the consideration of the many voices in our district; the confidential nature of certain subject matters; an understanding of the defined roles and responsibilities of the Board; and how to continue to seek ways to transcend these barriers for better awareness and understanding. Our communications team understands these challenges and continue to work with the Board to seek ways that increase our communication modes and proactively address upcoming changes.

As always, please feel free to contact us with your thoughts. The questions and responses from our recent community conversations are posted online.

On behalf of the Kent School District Board of Directors,

Maya Vengadasalam
President, Board of Directors
Kent School District
Featured Message from Director Karen DeBruler
While attending a wonderful STEAM night at Sawyer Woods in March, I was fortunate to meet and speak with Reading and ELL Specialist, Laurie Donati, and Dr. Timothy Kieran O’Mahony of Neural Education. Because of personal circumstances, Laurie has immersed herself (and consequently the staff of Sawyer Woods), in brain research and how the brain affects learning. I know that sounds like a “yes, of course” statement, but it goes much deeper than most parents and teachers know or practice. 

Laurie explained how learning about neuroscience changed her work. “… my Master’s thesis was on teaching and the brain. I recorded and analyzed so many improvements with my students’ attention, social-emotional health, recollection of lessons learned in class, etc.…and we had a lot of fun together in the process!” She went on to say, “ in the fall of 2017, I learned about this local group that provides free (and now very cheap) professional development for teachers. The Neural Education group takes research from over fifty years of neuroscience data and has brought it straight to tangible instructional practices for all of us to practice which has quite literally changed the important work I do every day with students and teachers for the better.”
Dr. O’Mahony explained to me that often when students aren’t “connected” to the learning, it’s because of something called “the amygdala hijack;” the amygdalae (two of them, one on each side of the brain) are where emotions, survival instinct, and memory exist. If a student is experiencing an abundance of negative emotions or has lived through traumatic situations which haven’t been dealt with, there is no learning reaching the part of the brain where learning takes place: the prefrontal cortex (responsible for complex planning, impulse control, focusing, abstract thinking, decision-making, behavior modifications, etc.). Students at the STEAM Night were engaged in a fun cooperative ball-bouncing activity that help them get out of their amygdalae, as an example.

Laurie is a truly dedicated teacher. She and a small dedicated Sawyer Woods team attended the Neural Education summer institute last year. They have worked this year to share their learning with the rest of the staff.  

We in fact have so many teachers pumped up about learning and the brain that we have an even larger group excited to learn more and are signed up to attend the Neural Ed summer institute this summer!”
Both Laurie and Dr. O’Mahony are eager to share with parents and KSD teachers their approaches to opening up students to more learning, better behavior choices, and positive social-emotional growth.  
Dr. O’Mahony sent me two articles to read to get started. I’m including them here for anyone who wants to learn more about brain research.
Legislative Update from Director Ross Hardy
A focus on how this year’s legislative session ended:
Sine Die: ending on time with a budget.

This 2019 “long” session for the Washington State Legislature did end on time with the adoption of 2-year operating and capital budgets. From the beginning, over 2,500 bills were introduced with about 300 of them pertaining to some impact on education and/or education funding. About 50 of those ended up being adopted and are now part of state law.

  • E2SHB 1216 addressed student safety and well-being including regional safety centers, an OSPI state safety center, and school resource officer training/grant
  • Budget (ESHB 1109 Sec. 504 (2)(d)(ii)(A) provides for guidance counselor increases in “Targeted” schools
  • SB 5903 added to student mental health & safety
  • SSB 5689 direct districts to add policies to prevent harassment, intimidation, bullying
  • 2SSB 5082 put additional focus on social emotional learning

Also check out the changes from E2SHN 1599, which changed the education requirements including: adding pathways and not specifically requiring passing the state assessment for graduation. Special Education funding is increased, but not to the level needed to close the gap in full funding as part of basic education.

More impactful could be ESSB 5313, which pulled up the levy lid to allow districts to raise more funds locally for enrichment spending. This opens our district’s opportunities to increase the level of funds pulled from our local community that has been decreased significantly for this and next school year. The legislative has pulled up the lid, but it is still up to our community to fund the education we seek.

Ross Hardy
Legislative Representative, Board of Directors
Kent School District
Messages from Board Members Straus and Daniels
Message from Debbie :
As you have heard by now, I have decided not to run again for school board. I did not make this decision lightly. My family and I had many conversations about my continuing and decided that after 12 years it was time to focus on my family. I am blessed to have served with so many wonderful people and having had the opportunity to serve our students and staff. We still have much to accomplish over the next 6 months. I am committed to continue to focus on our students.

Message from Denise:
This past week I had the honor of attending a leadership retreat for the nine selected Regional Classified Employees of the Year (CEOY). I am proud to have represented PSESD 121 as their awardee and had an opportunity to learn of some amazing work that my fellow winners are doing across our state that is impacting our students in powerful ways.

Our three days together included many workshops, learning opportunities, and collaboration with some of the most awarded educators in our state. We were each given the task of continued and more impactful advocacy, using our newly elevated platforms. We learned with and from each other and made a commitment to keep in contact and share our journey over the next year. At the end of the retreat, one of us was chosen as CEOY for the state of Washington. I am proud to share just a little bit about the person awarded that honor.

Martha Wisdom, from NCESD 171 and CEOY State Winner, is a migrant records clerk in Tonasket School District. Martha has a passion for helping migrant and bilingual students. She has spent the past nine summers helping to develop and implement a home-based Migrant/Bilingual Summer School program to help students avoid summer learning loss. Martha is an amazing and passionate person who has worked to find a solution to improve learning for some of our most impacted students.

It was shared that OSPI decided about ten years ago to begin formally recognizing all staff as having a critical role in the education of our students, and choosing to honor those who, although not a certificated teacher, still hold an important place in our school system. I am so proud to be a part of that recognized work!
Update from Superintendent Dr. Calvin J. Watts
Our instructional model in Kent School District is Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA). This year we have worked with our leaders to understand and begin implementing this instructional model which serves to benefit all leaders of KSD. Embedded in the model is an approach for continually improving processes and for solving problems. Our leaders in KSD are committed to continuous improvement and feedback from our team members and colleagues. Both individually and as a group, we take constructive criticism seriously as this is part of the performance culture we are co-creating. Another important part of our culture is recognizing those who serve our students, staff and community and those who live out our district’s core values of Equity, Excellence and Community.

We take great pride in recognizing the many contributions made on behalf of our students by committed, passionate and caring adults. This spring we are launching a new #KyeSD award that will be given to those who are modeling our core values.

Also, recently, we recognized two leaders at the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA) 110 Regional Awards Ceremony in Renton at the Puget Sound Educational Service District. Principal Cynthia Green of Ridgewood was recognized for her instructional leadership to improve student achievement. Principal Green leads with clarity, persistence, and passion. In her tenure as Principal of Ridgewood Elementary School, Ms. Green has utilized continuous quality improvement to transform how staff identify and review data. Each team within the school implements PDSA prioritize instruction, create flexible groups based on data, and design targeted interventions to meet the needs of all students.

In addition to focused data cycles, Principal Green has led her staff in embedding explicit instructional practices to ensure that each teacher is prepared to deliver rigorous instruction to each and every student. Principal Green has accelerated student performance (as reflected in recent iReady data) and stays focused on the core business of teaching and learning.

Also recognized at the WASA Awards Banquet was Mr. Paul Bogel, president of Kent Schools Foundation, in recognition of the foundation’s outstanding contributions toward education. The mission of the Kent Schools Foundation (KSF) is to engage with families, educators, businesses, and the broader community to fund innovative and supportive learning opportunities for every student in the Kent School District.

The first auction launched by KSF in September 2018 was a huge success! The inaugural fundraiser, Shine On!, raised over $63,000 gross. By January 2019, KSF was putting the money raised at the auction right back into KSD Classrooms. KSF announced its first annual Classroom Enrichment Grant cycle on January 2. The purpose of the Classroom Enrichment Grant program is to fund projects such as art, music, STEM, reading, field trips and unique experiences that enrich student learning in the classroom. Thanks to the generosity of our KSD Community, the foundation awarded 18 grants to classrooms across our district totaling over $9,000. The Foundation then opened a second cycle in April and is awarding an additional $8,700 in May. A total of 28% of the proceeds from the first event is going straight back into the classrooms. The second annual fundraiser is scheduled for October 12, 2019.

Our students benefit when our adults work together to support each other’s success, make student-centric decisions, and work collaboratively toward the common goal of high achievement for all.

Kind regards,
Dr. Calvin J. Watts
Recent Board Meeting Highlights
Board meeting agendas, minutes, and policies are accessible through the BoardDocs site. Regular meetings of the school board are held in the boardroom of the administration center located at 12033 SE 256th Street, Kent, at 7:00 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month.
This past month, the Board recognized weeks in April and May as National Student Leadership Week, Administrative Professionals Week, Public School Volunteer Week, Teacher Appreciation Week, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, and National School Nurse Day, with a special recognition for Dr. Mary Newell. The Board also recognized our National Board Certified staff members.

Board members discussed and approved multiple policies, contracts, grants, and education/communication resources. In addition, we held special meetings and presentations for the following:

  • Work Session on Capital Facilities Plan and a Communications Plan Update
  • Work Sessions on Policy Reviews
  • Work Session on Prof Tech/Non-rep Compensation Study results and the 2019-20 Budget
  • Student Discipline Quarterly Report
  • Safety Services Quarterly Report
  • January & February 2019 Financial Statements
  • 2018-2019 Budget Status Update: March 2019
  • Board Communications Plan Review #3
  • RFP No. KSD2019-02 Independent Auditor Services Update
Upcoming School Board Events
May 29: Board Work Session at 5:30 p.m.
June 5:   Board Work Session at 5:30 p.m.
June 12:  Board Meeting at 7 p.m.
June 19: Board Work Session at 5:30 p.m.
June 26:  Board Work Session at 5:30 p.m.
June 26:  Board Meeting at 7 p.m.

Board meeting agendas, minutes, and policies are accessible through the   BoardDocs Site .