Marysville students value input on ‘values’ in district plan

MARYSVILLE – You may not think students would be interested in something as wonky as a Strategic Plan, but think again.

In rolling out the Marysville School District’s plan, administrators have received a lot of input from student leaders.

“It’s been so much fun,” superintendent Jason Thompson said Tuesday at a public meeting about the plan. Another such meeting will take place Saturday, also at the district office at 4220 80th St. NE, starting at 9 a.m.

Thompson said Associated Student Body at both Marysville Getchell and Marysville-Pilchuck high schools have asked administrators to come back numerous times to discuss things like district values.

Lori Knudsen, executive director of learning and teaching, said: “Student voice is so important. They appreciate it” being involved.

They especially appreciate the core values, or CARES: Communication, Accountability, Resilience, Equity and Student-Centered. They like the promise, preparing them for a rapidly changing world. And they like the commitment of engaged, inspired and prepared.

“We want to feel this commitment,” students told Knudsen. They like that’s it’s in writing.

Equity is key for the kids. “There’s racism in this community. We need to talk about that,” Knudsen said.

Amy Sheldon of Marysville asked about equity for special education students.

“They have a lot to teach us,” Thompson said. “They have barriers we don’t have a clue about.”

For staff, he said communication is important.

“The staff wants to know why” things are done, he said, adding that’s not always been explained in the past.

Stephen Muller, a city councilman who attended, asked what some of the hurdles are to students graduating?

Thompson said students have told him they want to be engaged. The superintendent said that also would help with attendance.

“We want to offer a lot more cool things,” Thompson said.

The district wants to offer more “pathways they are interested in,” Knudsen added.

Getting students engaged brings about zero disciplinary issues, Thompson said. “Kids get turned loose to work” in our best classes, he added.

Knudsen said teachers getting to know students better will help remove some of the other barriers to graduation.

The district is doing a better job of working together, Thompson said. For example, academic scores at Shoultes Elementary have seen “huge gains,” and instead of keeping the keys to their success to themselves they are sharing it with others.

Knudsen said the five strategic goals are: 1. Relationships, “Jason’s number one push.” 2. Structure and systems, “which were lacking.” 3. Teaching and learning. 4. Communication, “We have a lot of work to do at that.” 5. Resource management, “Transparency in spending money.”

Knudsen said aligning the schools and getting them all on the same page is important.

“We’ve had great pockets of success,” but we want that all over the district, she said.

Both Thompson and Knudsen said the plan is a living document that will be assessed as they go, rather than waiting until the end of the year. If something’s not helping kids, they won’t be afraid to throw it out. As an example, they will be getting rid of Naviance, the curriculum used to help students plan for their futures. They will get something to replace it, because it’s important, but there was little buy in from staff and students on that program.

“If it’s not helping kids, why are we doing it?” Thompson asked.