Students participate in the district’s strategic planning process

Students participate in the district’s strategic planning process

About 15 middle and high school students participated in the district’s new strategic planning process.

By Peter Woodbrook

For Vashon Island School District

From October 18-20, nearly 60 Vashon teachers, administrators, board members, and members of the Vashon community gathered and came to the Vashon Island School District (VISD) maintenance shop to begin work on a new strategic plan for the district.

Above all, among those present, there were about 15 middle and high school students every day.

“It’s very important to hear from the people who are primarily impacted by this strategic plan, which is the students,” said sophomore Will Frith. “It’s important to directly engage a variety of different students with different viewpoints and give them a voice, and I think that’s mostly been achieved.”

The students sat down and engaged in the process alongside all participants.

They poured in data and statistics from student surveys, state assessments, and course enrollment demographics. They reflected, contributed and worked in the workshop on ideas and opinions during small group exercises. They spoke for themselves and their comrades throughout the process, much to the satisfaction of the adults present in the room.

Superintendent Slade McSheehy said, “Hearing students talk about their experiences in our schools helps identify areas for improvement.”

The strategic plan acts as a roadmap for the Vashon Island School District, and its primary purpose is to align all community stakeholders around a shared vision with common goals and unified direction for the district’s educational efforts. The students who participated ranged from eighth graders at McMurray to seniors at Vashon High School. VHS principal Danny Rock asked Theo Newcomb senior if he would like to attend and entered the first day of the strategic planning process with an open mind.

“I had a lot of fun as a student here and I want everyone to have an equally good experience throughout their time,” Newcomb said. “The school system can always be better, and I want to help it get there. That’s why I’m involved, even though I’ll be graduating this year. It’s important to try to make changes for the better, and as a senior I can have that influence.

Despite the density of the material and the number of adults in the room, eighth-grade student Hazel Nielsen felt welcomed and empowered to speak freely and honestly.

“As students, we know what’s going on at school,” Nielsen said. “It’s empowering to know we were wanted at meetings and I enjoyed hearing everyone’s opinions, while also having the opportunity to voice my own.”

Mutiu Fagbayi, President and CEO of Performance Fact, Inc., facilitated the three-day Central Planning Team Workshop. The central planning team takes the lead in the overall direction of the strategic plan and incorporates input and perspectives from other district and community teams along the way.

Louisa R. Loomis