I believe that in order for students and staff to do their best, they have to feel like they belong at the schools. This means that they have people they know care for them, they feel supported, they’re healthy, and they feel safe.

I want to continue to foster communities within each of the schools, as each of the schools individually, and in the school district as a whole. Belonging to a community within the school–be it a club, a sports team, or an activity group–can inspire students to be able to speak up when they see bullying or other negative activities toward their peers.

Neither teachers nor parents can watch students everywhere they go, so we have to build the sort of communities within the schools that encourage students to make each other feel safe, whether it’s at school, online, or in the community with their friends.

While the administration and school board have built up trust and support for the staff, there is still work to be done there as well. Negotiations with staff unions have been collaborative, and most staff are strongly in favor of the direction of the district. But we have to keep working to make other staff members feel comfortable enough to step forward into a true sense of belonging.

As we build all of these communities within the school district, I also want to tie the schools more closely to the greater South Whidbey community. We have such a vibrant community of craftspeople, artists, musicians, scholars, and experts that it’s a shame we don’t connect our students with them more often. When I was at school here, we did a great job of bringing in volunteers, connecting with local businesses, getting students out into the community, and making sure that we were a part of the South End.

These communities can build a sense of belonging that not only enriches education, but also makes schools safer, more equitable places for our children to grow and learn.