Highline School District Listening Tour
Two Gem reporters attended the third of seven listening sessions conducted by the Highline School District, held at Highline High School (Burien) on October 11th.
Please Note: Anyone can attend any meeting regardless of district:
- October 12th, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Evergreen High School – District 1, Director Garcia
- October 17th, 6:00-7:00 p.m., Virtual (all regions)
- NEW DATE: November 1st, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Mount Rainier High School – District 5, Director Hagos
- November 3rd, 6:00-7:00 p.m., Virtual (all regions)
At the October 11th meeting, Highline School Board Director Joe Van and Superintendent Duran introduced the overall context:
- These meetings are a part of updating the district’s strategic plan.
- Upcoming steps (Fall 2022-Spring 2023) include summarizing feedback and comments from these meetings and other inputs which include focus groups and meetings with various community leadership groups.
- 60% of the group sessions will include student voices because students are considered stakeholders.
- Dr. Duran emphasized how the schools must work for all of the cities comprising the Highline School District.
Highline’s goals were briefly discussed. Dr. Duran is especially excited about the district’s bilingual/biliterate goal.
Highline’s Promise was presented as being focused on “academic, mental health and well-being,” preparing students for the future they choose…preparing for future success.
After a brief discussion of the November 8th school bond, attendees were presented with two questions about the Highline Promise of knowing every student by name, strength, and need: What’s working? What needs improvement? Attendees had the option to fill out a form and also had the opportunity to speak to the group as a whole.
About 12 parents or community members were in attendance, plus several school district staff, a student, and two school board members (Van and Hagos). Four of these attendees, all of whom are parents of current students, shared their likes and concerns.
Their comments are as follows:
- A mom shared that some students are not getting the services they need, including counseling. She has two kids. Her son, who attends an elementary school is engaged and doing well. However, the school of her special needs daughter sent a letter that they were sorry to inform her that they would not be able to assist as they have in the past; recovery services were not available, and they were unable to help her “work to her strengths.”
- Another mom commented that the schools are aging. The covid recovery plan seems unorganized; students are two weeks behind. Additionally, she observed that her son’s school was crowded, and he wanted to be at a different high school. The schools are understaffed, and there are too many subs. She asked, “are they learning enough?” She has an 18-year-old son who graduated but is now “lost.” She feels that the district “failed him.” Communication with the teachers is difficult – she works nights, and her messages are “restricted.”
- A dad commented on [vehicles] regularly speeding near schools and how the schools need more security. Otherwise, school is going well for his daughter.
- A third mom, with a high school student, asked for support as she tries to reason with her child about making healthy choices, especially surrounding drugs. Dr. Duran showed concern and empathy in his response. A Gem reporter spoke further with the mom afterward. She shared that she is very proud that her daughter, who is in college, is a first-generation student from an underrepresented group. She wants her son to have the same options as well and not be sidetracked by marijuana that she says he has easy access to. (It did not sound like this was on school property.)
- An Elementary teacher in the audience chose not to speak but discussed concerns with a Gem reporter. The teacher commented how short-staffed and overworked she and the other teachers were. Many are leaving due to exhaustion; she emphasized, “50-60 hours per week is too much!” Over 20 years of being employed, she has seen a steadily increasing workload. She acknowledged that the district comprises “high need” and “high poverty.”
We highly recommend attending one of the upcoming in-person or virtual meetings. This is your opportunity to help shape the district’s decisions and direction in how they serve and educate our students!