A school director’s job is to represent the voice of the community. I’m not campaigning to implement a personal or political agenda. I’m campaigning to ensure that each of our students is given the structures and supports they need to learn and grow. I’m campaigning to ensure that our entire community is engaged in decision making in our District.
The time I’ve spent as a classroom volunteer, a PTA board member, and an active advocate for education have helped me form some strong opinions about the things I’ve seen that work well, and the things I’ve seen that need to be improved. I’m sure that each of you have your own opinions, and we might not always agree. I want to hear from you. I want to know what has worked best for your students, for your classrooms, and for your schools. I want to know what hasn’t worked. Over the last 17 years I’ve seen my sons have successes and seen them have to face challenges. My experiences aren’t yours, though, and we can learn from each other.
Every school board in our state has adopted policies that define the role of the board and the school directors. Puyallup’s board adopted its key functions in 1997, and most recently revised those functions in 2012. The role of the board is to connect our community to our schools in support of our students. At its core, the board must ensure that “students will have ample opportunity to achieve their individual and collective learning potential.” The key functions adopted by the board to meet that goal are:
Vision and Responsible Governance:
The board, with participation by the community, will envision the future of the school district’s educational program and formulate goals, define outcomes and set the course for the school district. This will be done within the context of racial, ethnic and religious diversity and with a commitment to educational excellence and equity for all students.
Structure and Creating Conditions for Student and Staff Success:
To achieve the vision, the Board will establish a structure which reflects local circumstances and creates an environment designed to ensure all students the opportunity to attain their maximum potential through a sound organizational framework. This includes employing a superintendent, developing and approving policies, formulating budgets, setting high instructional and learning goals for staff and students, and nurturing a climate conducive to continuous improvement.
High Expectations for Student Learning:
The board will continuously articulate the belief that all students can learn and that each student’s learning can improve. The Board will act as leaders of a vision of shared learning that is supported by individual schools and the community.
The board’s accountability to the community will include adopting a system of continuous assessment of all conditions affecting education, including assessments for measuring staff and student progress towards goals. The public will be kept informed about programs and progress. Staff and board training will be provided to ensure continuous improvement of student achievement.
Advocacy and Community Engagement:
The board will serve as education’s key advocate on behalf of students and their schools. The Board will work to advance the community’s vision for its schools, pursue the District’s goals, encourage progress and energize systemic change and ensure that students are treated as whole persons in a diversified society.Puyallup School District Policy 1005
I will always act with a commitment to educational excellence and equity for all students. I will work with the other members of the board to create an environment that supports continuous improvement. I will have high expectations for student learning. I will strive to keep the public informed about our programs and the progress we make. I will hold myself and others accountable for continuously improving student learning. I will be an advocate for our students and their schools. I will ensure that each of our students is treated as a whole person, and celebrate what they add to our diversified society.
I cannot do those things without your engagement and support. If you know of somewhere that the District is failing its commitment to excellence and equity, I want to know about it. If the District is failing to support continuous improvement, I want to change that. If you don’t feel you’re being informed about the progress being made, tell me. Just as I have been an advocate for my sons and for public education over the last 17 years, I welcome your advocacy. Our students will benefit when we work together to celebrate their value and what they add to our community. I can’t wait to get started.
David and his wife, Carrie, have been a part of the Puyallup community for 20 years. They have raised three sons here, two who are Puyallup School District graduates and one who is member of the class of 2024.
David has 17 years of experience advocating for public education and has a demonstrated history of working in the civic & social organization industry. He has been actively engaged in work leading to policy change at the state and local level. David has been invited to speak about education and advocacy to parents, teachers, and other advocates from Puyallup to Bellingham to Longview to Ellensburg, and even to Washington D.C.
David has written and co-written legislative proposals with teams of other passionate advocates and has helped build consensus on controversial issues. Some of his work was adopted as the official positions of statewide organizations. He has testified to Legislators on education issues many times and seen some of his proposals win unanimous bi-partisan support in floor votes in Olympia on their way to being signed into law.
David recognizes that the next few years will bring unique challenges to our schools. Reopening our school buildings is only one part of the path forward for our students. Listening to our students, parents, and teachers will be crucial to making the decisions that will lead to the long-term success of the Puyallup School District. He is ready to work with the other Directors on the Puyallup School Board to build that future.
What size shoe does your student wear? I’m sure it seems like an odd question from someone seeking to be an advocate for you and your child as a member of the Puyallup School Board.
When your child turned eight years old, they weren’t automatically given a pair of size eight shoes. They might not have needed new shoes yet, or they might have been overdue for a new pair. When the time was right and they actually needed new shoes, you probably took them somewhere to have their feet measured, or used what you knew about them to find the size that seemed most likely to fit. They tried them on and you then had a chance to see if the new shoes fit, or if you needed to try something a little different. Knowing their age might have given you a small clue about where to start, but finding the right fit was much more complicated than that. Even if you could find the right size, there was still no guarantee that you’d find the right style or color, or that what they picked would fit into your budget. Our kids are more complicated than that.
Our schools generally operate under the idea that if your child is eight years old, they should be in the third grade. For some students, that’s likely to be a good fit. Some students might not quite be ready for it. Others might be ready for more. We do have standards that our educators can use to evaluate whether a student has mastered the concepts expected of that grade level and is ready to move on, but mastering math skills and mastering reading skills can happen at different times. Our teachers differentiate instruction to try to ensure that each student gets what they need to progress. A student who starts the year needing a little more help in one area might make more than a year’s worth of progress in that area by the end of the year. Maybe they’ll match that level of growth across several areas of learning. Maybe they won’t.
I’m an advocate for each child. One size fits all solutions are a compromise. I appreciate the plan that the Puyallup School District is making right now to address the issue commonly known as “learning loss” as they prepare for the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. They plan to have additional staff in place and additional attention paid to ensuring that each student gets what they need to succeed going forward. Our students experienced the end of the 2019-2020 school year and the whole of the 2020-2021 school year in different ways. Some did well with remote learning. Others did not. I don’t like the phrase “learning loss,” as it implies that once missed, that opportunity is gone forever. Our schools are teaching our children to be life-long learners, and learning doesn’t follow a predetermined calendar any more than does the growth of a student’s foot.
It’s going to take more than a year to make up for eighteen months of disruption. It’s going to take additional support from counselors, and in the area of social-emotional learning. It’s going to take additional differentiation in the classroom to make sure that each child gets what they need. It’s going to take creativity. It’s not going to be easy for our students. It’s not going to be easy for parents. It’s not going to be easy for teachers, staff, and administrators. Some of those additional supports will come with a price tag, and we’ll need to decide how to allocate our scarce resources. It will be even more important that we can all work together to find solutions that fit each student. I want to hear from you, too, because it will be my role to be your voice on the School Board. I’m excited for the opportunity to be a part of that conversation.
I have loved seeing all the different, amazingly creative, ways that PTAs and Booster Clubs have found to show their appreciation for teachers this week. I’ve also loved the notes from teachers asking parents to update them on how the kids they taught in past years are doing today, or to share a special memory from the time the student was in their class. If you haven’t had a chance to share a note of thanks to the teachers in your kids’ lives, or even to the teachers in your life who made a difference, it’s never too late. I’m still connected to my middle school math teacher and my high school humanities teacher, and it’s a joy to see them still celebrated all these years later.
Teacher appreciation is more than just a week of treats. Teacher appreciation is paying them fairly for the skills they’ve dedicated years to develop, Teacher appreciation is ensuring that the facilities that house our students and educators are safe and conducive to learning. This year, more than ever, we’ve been reminded that teacher appreciation is providing them access to affordable health insurance so they can get the healthcare they need. It’s ensuring that there is access to childcare for their own kids while the teachers are devoting their attention to ours. In some communities, it’s supporting affordable housing so that teachers can afford to live in the communities they serve.
Teacher appreciation can also point out some of the issues we face in our schools today. When parents and PTAs step up to provide teachers with materials and classroom supplies, it points out the inequities of a system that too often forces teachers to fund some of those items out of their own pockets, or to make do without them. I have mixed emotions about how many options have been created to allow crowdfunding support for teachers. I’m glad those options exist to connect donors to those who need the support, while bothered that there are so many teachers that needed the support that an entire industry developed around connecting private donors to learning about and paying for those needs.
When Teacher Appreciation week ends, let’s pledge to continue to support our educators by listening to them when they tell us what they need. Let’s pledge to give honest consideration to the school bond and levy measures that pay for our facilities and pay for those elements of a basic education that are not funded adequately by state and federal funds. Let’s find ways to work together. Decisions on education issues are not two sides of a zero sum game. Supporting our students and schools, and showing real appreciation for our teachers, results in better outcomes for our entire school community.
We like to think about Puyallup as a small town, right up until the time that we’re stuck in traffic on Meridian, on 94th, or on Shaw Road. We also like to think about our school district as being small, though that’s also something that we’re more likely to see in our rear view mirror, and not looking forward. Before we can talk about where our district can go next, we have to have an understanding of who we are.
The Puyallup School District is the 8th largest district in the state. At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year we had an enrollment of 22,488 students. That’s more students than are enrolled in the Vancouver, Federal Way, Everett, Bellevue, or Issaquah school districts. Enrollment this school year did dip from last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but districts across the state all saw similar temporary decreases. We’ve seen enrollment start to rebound as this school year has progressed. From the beginning of 2010 through the beginning of 2020, our enrollment increased by 12.4%. District projections suggest that we could see increases of 8% per year for the next three years. Even with numbers depressed by the pandemic, we’re looking at our already large district getting even larger.
Our enrollment growth hasn’t been equal across all student populations. The Puyallup School District has grown much more diverse in recent years. Students who identify as Asian and students who identify as being Two or More Races grew by about a third over the decade. Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino populations by grew by two-thirds during the same period. Enrollment of Black/African American students increased 40%. Current trends indicate that we will soon be a majority minority district.
We’ve also seen significant changes in the number of students in particular categories. Our low-income student population, as measured by students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, increased by 33% from 2010 to 2020 and now comprise nearly 39% of all enrolled students. The number of students who are English language learners has more than doubled from 632 students in 2010 to 1,376 in 2020. Combine our enrollment growth with the additional need for services that fit the changing demographics of our district and it’s obvious why we’ve needed to change which services are provided to our students, the way those educational services are provided, and why we need to continue to make changes to ensure that the needs of each of our students is met.