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YOUR SUPERINTENDENT

Welcome to the Superintendent’s BlogDr. Sara Johnson

As part of my efforts to continue the focus on communications, community engagement, and transparency, I’m thrilled to launch this blog for Sumner School District stakeholders. In this area of the website, I will discuss a variety of timely issues and provide information that I hope will be helpful to Sumner staff, parents, students, and community members. To suggest topics, please email me at sara_johnson@sumnersd.org I look forward to hearing from you and connecting with the community.

From My Heart to Yours,

Dr. Sara Johnson, Ed.D.

February 3, 2016
Kindergarten registration has officially kicked off! We welcome new kindergartners and families to the Sumner School District. What an important and exciting time! I get a thrill watching the children who come with parents for information and registration. Hands gently intertwined and connected to their first teacher – the parent – preparing to meet their next teacher – the kindergarten teacher.

Here in the Sumner School District one of our core values is a commitment to early learning and development. It is amazing what a 1-5 yr old brain can do. As young children are active and eager learners, our early learning programs are developmentally appropriate and academically rigorous. The expectation of what a young mind can learn is braided into a playful and intentional kindergarten program for students and families.

Our commitment to exceptional early learning drives the Early Learning Center project that is currently a component of the February 9 Capital Facilities Bond. If passed, an Early Learning Center in the Sumner valley would support young learners through scale and space. Research shows, young children learn through play and by exploring and interacting with their environment. They need classrooms and outdoor play spaces that are markedly different from traditional elementary school classrooms and playgrounds. Spaces designed for early learners feel comfortable by having appropriate scale and design. The design encourages children to explore, be self-directed and invite self-expression. Integrating the outdoor and the indoor environment allows children to interact with their peers and with nature. Spaces would be structured, yet  flexible to meet the ever-changing needs of young students. Combining a space specifically designed for young learners with an appropriate and academically rigorous early learning curriculum is an ideal model. In addition, by moving kindergarten and preschool classrooms out of Daffodil Valley and Maple Lawn Elementary, it would open up classrooms; reducing crowding at these schools.

Sumner School District is committed to providing the best possible start for early learners. Visit the District Website for more information on the Early Learning Center and other bond projects.


January 6, 2016
This time of year sets itself apart from any other month in many different ways. A New Year brings new possibilities, renewed hope and fresh starts. A New Year is like a gift. A gift of 356 opportunities!

One of the key gifts you can give your child to promote school success - and future career success - is practicing the habit of regular on-time attendance. The research is clear; all children, regardless of socio-economic background or race, do better academically if they have good school attendance. Missing 10 or more days of school, or having 10 or more late arrivals or early departures, is a proven warning sign of academic risk and school dropout. If children are in school, they have the opportunity to learn; if children aren’t in school, they can’t learn. Curriculum content is rigorous and every minute counts. There’s no doubt that an improvement in school attendance leads to an improvement in school performance!

At Sumner School District, we have made it tradition to inspire every student to think, to learn, to achieve, and to care. We have established the tradition of providing excellent educational experiences and services. Most importantly, we are building the tradition of preparing our students for post-secondary educational opportunities. The best part of these traditions is that we renew them every day, every season, of every year.

Of course, I believe the faces of our children best express the true meaning of the New Year. They radiate a sense of unbridled enthusiasm, untainted hope and unabashed joy for life and the opportunities that await them. As you enjoy tradition and welcome in 2016, I want to extend my thanks to all of you for everything that you do for the school district. It is my fervent wish that each of you receives and returns the seasonal bounty of blessings and good tidings that makes a New Year truly special.


December 2, 2015
All families want what is best for their children, but they don’t always realize how absences can add up to academic struggling. Sometimes children are allowed to miss school when it’s not absolutely necessary. This often happens before and after the winter holidays, as families try to squeeze a few more days out of the vacation season. Principals and teachers have an opportunity to reduce holiday absences by making sure parents and students understand the toll that absenteeism takes on achievement.

Is your family planning a trip for the holidays? As you think about your arrangements, remember the importance of sending your child to school every day possible. Every year, absences spike in the weeks before and after the winter holiday as families squeeze in a few more vacation days. We know that just a few missed days here and there, even if they’re excused absences, can add up to lost learning time and put children behind in school. This is as true in kindergarten as it is in high school. Put simply, too many absences at any age can affect a student’s chances for academic success and eventually for graduation.

We recognize that holidays are an important time for reconnecting with families. The costs of plane tickets often influence when you want to travel. But keep in mind the costs to your children’s education if they miss too much school— and the message you will be sending about the importance of attendance. Even if you get a homework packet from the teacher, it doesn’t make up for the direct instruction that happens in the classroom. Our teachers will be teaching, and our students will be learning, right up until vacation starts and the first day back. This holiday season, give your children the gift of an education and the habit of attendance.


November 4, 2015
The challenge of properly balancing work and life, what some refer to as work-life balance, is a finely tuned act many of us try to achieve. Administrators, teachers, parents, and our students, need to strike a delicate balance between busy lives  (work) and relaxation (play).  Achieving that balance brings satisfaction, equilibrium and makes us feel whole. It’s a sweet spot when we achieve it. Honestly, I’m still working at it!

Work-life balance is a phrase we often hear but is it possible with all of the demands of our modern culture?  Is achieving a balance in our daily routine actually attainable? Renowned author and speaker, Jon Gordon, takes a fresh look at work-life balance, explaining it is realistically about  finding a doable rhythm in life, as opposed to a day to day balance. He believes there is a “time to work hard – and a time to rest.” Further, he advises to work towards balancing the scales of work-life on a big-picture basis, rather than a short term timeline. I like the way he compares the balances to seasons: there is a season to dive into work with both feet, and a season to recharge one’s battery through calm and rest.

Sometimes, we have no option but to dig in and solve a difficult problem. For example, our district is hard at work  finding immediate solutions to accommodate the growing number of students in schools and planning ahead for the growth that is hitting our area. November 18, the School Board votes on a resolution for putting a capital projects bond on the February 2016 ballot.  Bond funding would allow the district to focus on the schools with the highest facility needs. Plan B is coming up with solutions to accommodate the growth while keeping class sizes low, and maintain facilities without extra funds. It’s a difficult puzzle to solve, and something we must plan for now. Additional portables and possible boundary changes are alternate solutions that the Bond Planning Committee is evaluating.

The work is intense and demanding right now. But as we move towards the beginning of the holiday season and celebrate Thanksgiving, it is my wish that you will set aside work to focus on a season of rest and rejuvenation with friends and family. As Sumner School District leaders, our hearts are filled with gratitude for excellent teachers, principals, support staff, bus drivers, facilities people and board members. We appreciate the support of our amazing communities, both Bonney Lake and Sumner. As we take time to focus on gratitude, we allow our hearts to be refreshed to come back and continue the important work of public education.


October 7, 2015
Our district is knee-deep in bond planning – examining and evaluating facility use and discussing future district facility need. Student enrollment in our schools has increased by more than 800 students over the past three years. Over the next 10 years, an additional 2000 students are projected to enroll.

On November 18, the School Board will be voting on a resolution to put a bond measure on the February 2016 ballot that would enable us to build, restore, and develop our schools for the future.

I’m reminded of the famous quote by Winston Churchill, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.” The meaning of the quote itself can be examined. For me, however, I believe the quote speaks to not only the structure of the building but also the relationships and the work we do in school buildings. Schools cultures are a reflection of the community, and certainly as we begin to build, the community should have a voice. The design of school buildings is a partnership between architect’s ideas, the needs of the students, and the vision of the community.

The upcoming phase of our bond planning is to formulate Educational Specification Committees comprised of staff and community members who can comment and add value to the nature of the construction projects. This is important work. All phases of building, restoring and developing require collaboration. Planning for our growing student enrollment belongs to all of us - the school administrator, the classroom teacher, the parent, and the citizen. Collaboration at it’s finest, as partners in education will result in the highest outcome.

I encourage you to visit the District Website for more information about the February 2016 bond project proposal.


September 2, 2015
Students deserve a great education and this year we will be emphasizing the importance of attendance, student engagement, and graduation. What’s the first step to success? Regular attendance!

Succeeding in school is something every child deserves. The research is clear; missing as few as 10 days of school in one year is an indicator of a student heading toward academic trouble – and an increased rate of dropping out. Across the country, as many as 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school every year—and absences correlate with the struggle to succeed - at every grade level. The good news is positive attendance patterns are easy to establish. Here are a few practical tips to help support regular attendance:

  • Make sure your children keep a regular bedtime and establish a morning routine
  • Lay out clothes and pack backpacks the night before
  • Ensure your children go to school every day unless they are truly sick
  • Avoid scheduling vacations or doctor’s appointments when school is in session.
  • Talk to teachers and counselors for advice if your children feel anxious about going to school.
  • Develop back up plans for getting to school if something comes up. Call on a family member, neighbor, or another parent to take your child to school.

School attendance patterns can be “reset” at the beginning of each year! We commit to supporting children by making school meaningful and engaging. We sincerely appreciate your partnership in making this year the best year yet for kids. Let us know how we can best support you and your children so that they can show up for school on time every day. The starting line is just a few days away and our staff is eager to invest in your child’s success.


August 5, 2015
The proposed Sumner School District 2015-16 budget has been thoughtfully developed in accordance with the Sumner School District’s goals, and funds have been targeted to enhance excellent instruction across the district, emphasizing increased student outcomes. As we continue to grow, we redouble our focus on intensifying the delivery of relevant, solid programs, with an emphasis not only on academics, but also character and citizenship skills. The 2015-16 school budget reflects our commitment to prepare all students for a productive life and multiple opportunities after high school.

The district is pleased to be experiencing a growth trend. We estimate serving 9,086 students in 2015-16, more than an 817 student increase over the past three years. As we continue to grow, especially on the south side of the district, we are keenly aware of the importance to plan, prepare, and budget wisely. What is new in the 2015-16 Staffing and Budget?

  • Continued focus on lower class size for Kindergarten through 2nd grade
  • Increase in certified staff to serve our growing population
  • Teacher Mentor Program for new Elementary, Middle, and High School Teachers
  • Support and growth for Elhi Hill & Academy of Hope programs to provide opportunities of success for students with specific needs
  • Development and delivery of intervention services to ensure achievement for students who need extra support to reach success
  • Increased and more highly trained Health Services staff
  • Additional Custodial Staff to serve the increase in student enrollment
  • After school transportation to provide more time and opportunities for high school students to attain 24 credit hours in high school
  • Targeted professional development for staff in critical areas (based on data)
  • Preparation, alignment, and adoption of District Literacy Curriculum K-12
  • Staffing to enhance student and adult leadership skills and connections with community

As superintendent, I consider it one of my most important roles to present a budget that supports quality experiences for all students and ensures excellent instruction for every child, every day, in every classroom, from grades K – 12. Our student achievement remains above state average and we are on the verge of getting even better. Excellent staff makes a great difference in students’ achievement and we have outstanding teachers, administrators, and support staff. The proposed 2015-16 budget will support instructional initiatives so that we can continue to trend upwards as a district, while being fiscally sound and responsible in providing outstanding service and education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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