By Dr. Brent C. Jones, Interim Superintendent Seattle Public Schools
As superintendent, my self-appointed mission is to create the conditions for students to thrive. I believe it is my responsibility to push our system toward better outcomes and to hold us all accountable for holding the racial, moral, and ethical high ground. I take responsibility for setting the groundwork for getting our school system to a become a beloved community and a community that cares.
In 92 days (September 1st), we will initiate the 2020-2021 school year – 180 days of excellence – with full-time, in-person learning at Seattle Public Schools. As we re-open our schools, we have opportunities to reset expectations, build in new accountabilities, and innovate beyond imagination. Our bold strategic plan is focused on students of color furthest from educational justice particularly on behalf of African American boys and young men. The plan sets forth expectations for high quality learning experiences, predictable and consistent systems that support learning; securing a culturally responsive workforce; and authentically engaging with community to provide a meaningful voice in school and district initiatives.
I have already learned a lot when hearing from families, community and staff. Within SPS, it is clear that we need to increase our efforts to further develop a culture of care, responsiveness, high-quality learning, culturally relevant curricula and practices, and student-centered resource allocations. Therefore, I am focused on the following objectives: 1) deploying a culture of care on day one. This means protecting the health and safety of everyone. We are creating an environment that fosters collective wellness for both students and the adults serving our students. 2) Responsiveness across the board should be our imperative. Schools, families and students should have an expectation that they experience follow-up and follow-through. Their concerns will be taken seriously and honored as valid and urgent. 3) High-quality learning, culturally relevant curricula and practices must be in place to ensure that we are yielding our best outcomes for students. Welcoming classrooms and high-quality instruction will be routine. 4) Directing local budget allocation and federal stimulus dollars to prioritize student outcomes is a necessity.
Closing the gaps in service and making our system of people and processes effectively act for those with the greatest needs must continue to be our mandate. We are designing our decision-making around those that we have not served well in the past. I will establish a moratorium on harmful actions to students; and replace them with highly favorable conditions such as honoring and respecting what students bring to the table. I will do my best to disrupt the deficit-based thinking about Black students and help others see them as assets and brilliant, all the while cultivating their genius. I intend for each and every student to excel.
It’s time for Seattle Public Schools to have the welcoming environment for community to lean in and take part in a reclaiming of greatness in our school system. Families and community must be part of the fabric of Seattle Public Schools. I am striving to foster a welcoming environment at every school for all families. I am asking families to be part of the community and join in decision-making, participate in PTSAs, volunteer at your schools, engage with your school communities, including helping other families navigate our system. I have connected with community leaders and have made it clear that SPS needs voices, ideas and innovations. We cannot create the conditions to thrive without more participation. This is where we must put our collective energy – eliminate opportunity gaps and increase opportunities for greatness. I believe in us. Let’s get to work.