Superintendent November Message On Humankind, Cultural Days of Significance, and Power of Positive Partnerships
Dear Mercer Island Families, Friends and Educators,
Humankind. Last November, I attended a conference with our student representatives to the school board, Director Lurie, and Director Tucker. Guest speaker, Dr. Adolph Brown, delivered one of those keynotes that leaves you reflecting, wondering, and thinking well beyond the ride or flight back home. What stuck with me, even a year later, was his simple assertion that we could all benefit if we would be a little more human and a lot more kind. I shared some of this reflection with staff heading into last Thanksgiving. A year later, amidst turmoil at home and abroad, it feels even more important this November.
I have the privilege to hear and learn about successes across our district. While we have our shortcomings and areas needing improvement, I would like to share with everyone some of the recent ways I have seen human and kind come to life.
- Following homecoming weekend, a community member whose children graduated many years ago, called and left a message with my assistant, Michelle. The community member just wanted to share with Mr. Wold how impressed she was with the students who gathered before the football game at her neighbor’s house. They engaged with her, were eager to talk about the game, and showed tremendous maturity and respect.
- Mr. Wollmuth, Island Park principal, received an email from a parent expressing appreciation for seeing the principals present and interacting with students at All Island Band Night.
- We continually hear positive feedback on how we are broadcasting student voices and telling stories about our community on all of our platforms. The students make us all look good!
- I loved the story of Northwood student Ford Parks signing with the University of Washington men’s basketball team. The Huskies embodied kindness and community. Ford shows us perseverance and joy each day.
- It was inspiring to watch the video of students in the IMS Baking Club working together, having fun, and modeling belonging.
- A year ago our MIHS football team did not win a game but laid a foundation for the future. This year, under second year coach DJ Mims, they are headed into the state playoffs this weekend. Coach Mims was recently honored as the Seahawks coach of the week. When asked about this Coach Mims was quick to recognize the athletes and coaches.
- Second graders at Northwood recently visited horticulture students at Crest to tackle the question, “What do plants and animals need to survive?” From the students and educators I spoke with, both the high schoolers and elementary students benefited equally but in different ways from the experience.
Cultural and Days of Significance in November
- Veterans Day- schools will be closed on Friday, November 10 (Veterans Day is November 11) to observe this federal holiday. Distinct from other military holidays, Veterans Day is a time to remember and appreciate all of the people who served in the armed forces. It is easy to simply see this as a day off of school, but I encourage us to remind our students and one another of the significance and reason why we pause school for the day.
- Diwali- The festival of lights, Diwali, is a Hindu holiday celebrating the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. Diwali is a five-day event, but the third and typically most significant day falls on Sunday, November 12 this year. We know our students, staff, and families who celebrate Diwali may need some grace on the Monday after Diwali.
- Thanksgiving- much of human history is complex, and Thanksgiving is not an exception. Most of us who attended school in America, it was certainly part of my early education, learned Thanksgiving was built on a reciprocal and peaceful relationship between Native Americans and European Settlers. Through a concerted effort to provide accurate accounts of history, we now acknowledge the imbalance of power, political dynamics, and atrocities that played out between the Wampanoag tribe and Pilgrims. I raise this not as an exercise to shame, blame, or create guilt. Instead, I hope we can engage one another in honest conversations about our past and commit to a better tomorrow together.
The history aside, Thanksgiving today is a cherished opportunity to convene friends and family, slow our pace, andsimply appreciate our connectedness. I wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving this month.
- Native American Heritage Month and Day- November is Native American Heritage Month and the Friday after Thanksgiving (November 24) is Native American Day. Mercer Island is the ancestral land of the Coast Salish people, and in particular the Duwamish and Snoqualmie tribes. November is a time to honor the contributions, achievements, sacrifices, and cultural and historical legacy of the American Indian and Alaska Native people.
Power of Positive Partnerships
One of the many strengths in our community is our partnerships with other organizations. From time to time I will be featuring examples of how collaboration between our district and other entities benefits our students.
- MIYFS and MISD Social Norming Campaigns- Did you know 90% of middle and high school students don’t use vape products in a typical month? Did you know 85% of middle and high school students agree vaping regularly is harmful? Beginning this month, MIYFS and our middle and high school will partner to begin a multi-month campaign to influence perceptions of our students and community about vaping, alcohol, cannabis, and other health related topics. The goal is twofold: one, counter narratives that circulate such as, “Everyone is doing drugs at the high school,” that is not true; and two, empower those not engaging in unhealthy behaviors with the message that they are often in the majority and certainly not alone.
I hope everyone has a wonderful month ahead. We truly do have much to be thankful for in our community. I urge us to remember we are all human and could benefit from more kindness. November can be the beginning of a tough time of year, as the long days of summer give way to the shorter, darker days of winter. Thanksgiving, another compound word worth delinking, is the perfect time of year to pick one another up, be human, give thanks, and spread kindness.
In honor of Inclusive Schools Week, WASA is partnering with the Mercer Island School District to present a showing of the film This is Not About Me followed by a forum with the film’s star Jordyn Zimmerman and Mercer Island High School graduate, Grant Blasko.
Humankind. Last November, I attended a conference with our student representatives to the school board, Director Lurie, and Director Tucker. Guest speaker, Dr. Adolph Brown, delivered one of those keynotes that leaves you reflecting, wondering, and thinking well beyond the ride or flight back home.
This past week, the Mercer Island School District held three community engagement sessions to present proposals and ideas from the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee. While nothing has been decided, the presentations and feedback from the community will help the District complete the final Long Range Facility Plan (LRFP).
If you have not already, you might hear about threats from Hamas calling for violent acts to be brought against Jewish people globally on October 13, tomorrow.