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Welcome Back To School Message From Superintendent Rundle

Welcome Back To School Message From Superintendent Rundle
Fred Rundle

Dear Students, Families, and Friends,

Wonder, worry, accomplishment, apprehension…joy. I flew home on Sunday night after dropping my oldest child off at college. I had many emotions to keep me occupied. Those of you who have already watched children move out, you know the feelings all too well. Whether children graduate and pursue college, careers, service, or travel, this is quite the experience. And for those of you with younger children, the moment seems so distant but it is not. Wherever we are in our journey as a parent/guardian, I recognize that it is not easy.  

Knowing how difficult it can be to be a parent/guardian, I want to reemphasize our commitment to partner with our families. Together, we can help our children realize their potential and chase their dreams. 

The MISD staff and I would like to welcome the students and your family back for the 2023-2024 school year. In conjunction with academic excellence, we will be laser focused on creating a sense of belonging for everyone in our schools as a foundation for achievement.

Before continuing on, I want to address the topic of facility planning, rebuilding, and consolidating. This has been a hot topic in the community and on NextDoor. We just completed the first phase of the Long Range Facility Planning committee’s work at the end of June and gave the Board and community their first update on August 24. Decisions about whether to replace elementary schools, finish the second half of the middle school, add enhancements to the high school, or even close an elementary school are quite a ways away. First, we need to take some of the ideas generated by the committee out to our schools and community for input and feedback. This will start in October, so be on the lookout for webinars or in-person meeting invitations soon! 

I look forward to sharing student, staff, and district accomplishments throughout the year and honoring along with our community the diverse cultural traditions that make our district vibrant. In a future communication I plan to acknowledge cultural and religious days of significance for September, but I do want to remind everyone that this Monday is Labor Day.

Labor Day marks the unofficial end to summer and a day off from school and work, but it is important to remember why we celebrate. The strength, perseverance, and success of our country can be attributed to the work and labor of our people, past and present. I want to recognize our teachers, bus drivers, custodians, para educators, nurses, specialists, office assistants, administrators and others who come to our schools each day to work on behalf of our students and community.

Engaged students, committed staff, and a supportive community have us positioned to make this an exceptional year. As we venture into the 2023-2024 year, I highlighted some of our 2022-2023 successes, new challenges, and ongoing improvement efforts. 

Successes to Build On

  • Academic Strengths
    • Unofficial SBA results (state assessment) indicate 87% of MISD 4th graders scored proficient or advanced in math (30% higher than the state average) and 89% of MIHS 4th graders scored proficient or advanced in ELA (40% higher than the state average). 
    • The percent proficiency in math across all 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders grew by 28% in 2022-2023 using our iReady assessment.
    • Over half of our 6th grade students who receive special education services scored at or above proficiency on the SBA. 
    • Over 1,100 Advanced Placement tests were taken at MIHS last year, an 8% increase from 2021-2022.
      • 43% of the students earned AP Scholar distinctions;
      • 25% of the tests taken earned a top score (5); and
      • 88% of the tests taken earned a 3, 4, or 5.
    • 90% of the MIHS 10th grade class scored at or above proficient on the SBA (research suggests the statistical target is 95%).
    • We will have comparison data to neighboring districts soon, but we believe our students are accelerating out of COVID at a fantastic rate, even surpassing pre pandemic achievement in some cases.
  • Financial Stabilization
    • Without eliminating any programs and actually growing some, we increased our bottom line.
    • Not including the $2 million debt repayment we made last year, we increased our fund balance from $1.75 million to what we project to be around $2.75 million for a $3 million dollar turn around (fiscal year closes August 31). 
  • Enrollment
    • Compared to our spring projections, we are actually up in enrollment. This is an important aspect of sustainability and contrary to a narrative being perpetuated that large numbers of people are leaving for alternative educational opportunities or not choosing MISD. We especially watch three grade levels where students often make a transition: first (some people opt for private kindergarten), sixth, and ninth. Here are the new student enrollments in these three grade levels.  
      • 1st grade- enrolled 37 new students
      • 6th grade- enrolled 31 new students
      • 9th grade- enrolled 33 new students
    • Interestingly, we also have 32 new 11th and 12th graders combined!   

Challenges Facing Us

  • Enrollment Decline
    • The excitement above is still within the context of projected declining enrollment that is real. Birth rates in King County have been declining since 2016 and home inventory and prices make it challenging for families to move here. Here are two examples of this impact.
      • 51 fewer kindergarten students enrolled this year compared to last year.
      • 378 students graduated last spring compared to 187 incoming kindergarten students to replace them (-191).
    • We also know we have to continue innovating and improving as a district to attract and retain families. Even with our successes, we know some families made a different choice and left MISD but still live in the community. 
  • Enhance Financial Footings and Budget Shortfall in Special Education
    • We are growing our savings account (fund balance), but we still have a ways to go to get to our operating expectation of 8% to 10%. 
    • We received some legislative relief last year, but we still continue to face deficits of several million dollars in special education. We will never stop providing what our students who need these services deserve, but the costs do have a systems impact and the state and federal formulas are not enough.
  • Academic Success and/or Civically Minded Graduates?
    • The political, social, and ideological forces polarizing our country are confronting our community as well. I engaged in very thoughtful conversations during my first year as superintendent with parents and community members about the priorities of our district. Some argue the schools are not academically rigorous enough and worry our students will not be prepared to compete for college admissions. Others express concern about whether our students will have the social, emotional, and humanistic skills necessary to navigate a complex world. I want to embrace both positions and work with our schools and community to make this a both/and discussion. Our student focused fundamentals, most notably Fundamental 2 and Fundamental 3, reiterate this point.

Continuous Improvement (Just a few!)

  • IMS Assessments - IMS will transition to using the iReady assessments already in place in our elementary schools. We will now track and monitor academic growth and achievement of our students in ELA and math from Kindergarten through eighth grade.
  • Cohesive Academic Pathways - last year we finalized a mathematics pathway to help our students plan and our families understand the math progression and opportunities in our school district. We will continue this work in science this year. 
  • 5th Grade Honor Choir - the one trimester 5th grade honor choir experience (open to anyone) was such a success that we are making this a full-year option just like band and orchestra! 
  • Professional Development - our staff continues to amaze me with their commitment to professional improvement. We are leading the way in our early literacy professional learning, adding new curriculum and resources at all three levels, and adding new classes and experiences across the system.

I am excited for the upcoming school year and the successes waiting on the horizon. We all dread (most of the time anyway) the day our children leave for one of life’s journeys, but they will be best prepared if we work together. I look forward to building relationships between your homes and our schools.

With gratitude,

Fred Rundle

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