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Cordata boys

Last updated Oct. 30, 2017

A Message from Dr. Greg Baker Superintendent of Schools

The Bellingham Promise is our district strategic plan, collaboratively developed in 2012 with staff, students, families and our community. Within this document, you will find some of our work priorities organized by key strategy. Throughout our district, our schools, departments and individual staff have a variety of goals and priorities in support of The Promise. Not every work priority is included here, but these represent most of our major districtwide initiatives.


Great Teaching with Strong Support

Kulshan science experimentAcross our system, we focus on ensuring high quality instruction for all our students by purposefully supporting teachers to advance their learning. We’re committed to offering meaningful professional development for all our staff and leadership development in our Aspiring Administrators program. We are taking significant strides to support the team teaching model at the middle school level by adding more teachers and reducing class sizes. We are also continuing to lower class size at the elementary level with strong focus on primary grades. This year, we are implementing a new high school schedule with more course opportunities for students and are adopting instructional strategies to integrate technology as part of the 1:1 initiative approved by voters in our last technology levy.

Top 5 Priorities

  • Support the implementation of the new 2017-18 high school schedule that includes innovative high school courses and an elective program that is exciting, compelling and engaging for students.
  • Focus on supporting prek-12 staff with social-emotional learning and support an expanded counseling staff at our middle and high schools.
  • Enhance professional development opportunities for all staff, certificated and classified.
  • Continue our emphasis on developing multi-tiered systems of support by piloting new screening materials and interventions to support the development of math interventions, helping students with dyslexic tendencies, and focusing professional development on social emotional learning of all students, including developing culturally proficient instructional practices.
  • Provide staff and student learning for technology integration for the first cohort in the 1:1 initiative (Kulshan, Options and Squalicum); and strong support from the Educational Technology team.

Chart shows increase of 10.6 counselors from 2012 to 2017.

Other Important Priorities

  • Make recommendations through committee work to support the student outcomes of scientists, historians and global thinkers, readers and writers, and healthy, active individuals.
  • Advance the implementation of committee recommendations in the areas of visual and performing art and world language and develop a multi-tiered systems of support for school teams to collaboratively determine the best ways to meet the individual needs of students.
  • Support outstanding leadership in our schools and develop future leaders through our Aspiring Administrators Program and targeted professional development for our principals, assistant principals, deans, administrative interns, other administrators and teacher leaders.
  • Take initial steps to develop and implement K-5 math intervention materials.
  • Maintain lower class sizes by adding teachers, especially in primary grades, while valuing specialists who provide music, physical education, library/media, counseling and more.
  • Continue to implement a new system of differentiated professional development for teachers that connects major teaching and learning initiatives, including technology integration; the teacher and principal evaluation system; common, rigorous learning standards; differentiated instruction for all students, including students identified highly capable, English language learners and special education programs.
  • Begin adoption and implementation of new middle school social studies curriculum.
Early Childhood Education

Parkview Kindergarten boyInvestment in a strong early childhood program is a top priority. Through voter support, Bellingham has been providing full-time kindergarten for all students since 2010. In 2015, we expanded our Promise K program that grants educational opportunities to students who don’t have access to high quality early learning. The GRADS teen parenting program will expand to the new Options High School, while continuing the program at both Sehome and Squalicum high schools. We have also opened Title 1 preschools at Alderwood and Cordata elementary schools.


Top 5 Priorities

  • Increase early childhood support staff for kindergarten and continue Promise K early entrance kindergarten opportunities for children who are age 5 or younger, who are not currently enrolled in a preschool or kindergarten, and who need early learning support. This provides a jumpstart on closing the opportunity gap between students entering our school system.
  • Provide support, training and development for teachers of preschool through grade one to enhance high quality instructional alignment.
  • Provide increased coordination of early childhood programs and support for teachers and administrators through our early childhood specialists.
  • Increase partnerships with early learning providers to promote aligned instructional practices. Advisory groups, including higher education representatives and community partners, have recommended next steps for expanding preschool and GRADS, our program for teen parents and their babies.
  • Purchase developmentally appropriate materials for first grade to enhance learning for all students using play as an instructional strategy and to build child development.

Teacher student ratio for K-3

Other Important Priorities

  • Continue our work as a state leader in early learning by supporting kindergarten and physical education teachers instruction with WaKIDS data collection, and by providing professional development for specialists and administrators.
  • Develop effective support models for students entering kindergarten to meet higher standards. For example, keep kindergarten class size ratios the lowest and add more adults in classrooms at the beginning of the school year. We will also continue to strengthen preschool and kindergaren transitions through community partnerships.
  • Offer parent education opportunities through partnerships with the Whatcom Early Learning Alliance (WELA), Whatcom Community College and Bellingham Technical College.
  • Implement consistent assessment of student progress in early grades, including use of the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS). In addition, we continue to gather data on the class of 2024, our first group of full-time kindergarten students to help with our instructional focus.
Student, Family and Community Engagement

Whatcom Museum and studentsBellingham Public Schools is always growing partnerships and expanding communications with our families, stakeholders and community members. Our many committees and advisory groups give recommendations for program enhancements. Our school board meets with community groups to gain their insight on The Bellingham Promise in our schools. We launched our Family Partnership Program in 2014 to support homeschooling families. Our Family Engagement Team connects families with resources, including school food banks, translation and interpretation, technology and more. We strive to be open and authentic in our partnerships with families, staff, students and the community to deliver on The Promise.


Top 5 Priorities

  • Support community partners and families with the implementation of new school start and end times to support more sleep for adolescents.
  • Improve Food Services and Wellness programs to support the Good Food Promise and vision: We encourage a lifetime of healthy eating by serving students nourishing, delicious, whole foods in a welcoming environment.
  • Engage our community about funding and budget process, including learning about our February 2018 bond for school facilities.
  • Continue to communicate with families and community regarding the development of upcoming school year calendars through negotiations with our teachers’ association.
  • Continue to implement restorative practices, or repairing harm caused by behavioral issues, and decrease the number of out-of-school suspensions. Create more positive school cultures and climates through programs, such as Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS).

Chart shows dramatic reduction in suspensions from 2012 to 2017.

Other Important Priorities

  • Increase elementary and middle school parent understanding of standards-based reporting and implementation of learning standards at all levels.
  • Support all students and families in feeling welcome, comfortable and valued, including our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) community.
  • Continue to grow the Family Partnership Program with the goal of enriching the learning of children whose families are their primary educators through homeschooling.
  • Grow a coordinated volunteer program to support our schools thanks to continued funding from the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation for a volunteer coordinator staff position.
  • Support the school board in sharing their community linkage outreach work and the impact of policy governance.
  • Strengthen Family Resource Center connections with families, social and health services and behavioral and emotional support through our strong partnerships with community organizations.
  • Support staff in up and coming best practices for classroom to home communications and engage families in identifying preferred strategies.
  • Implement our wellness policy and build an integrated approach to the health and wellness of students and staff through the leadership of our wellness director, jointly funded by the Whatcom Community Foundation.
One Schoolhouse

Two Sehome studentsOne Schoolhouse describes how we approach our work in Bellingham Public Schools to ensure all children will be cared for and respected. We’ve made strides to eliminate opportunity gaps for children by expanding Project Free Education. School supplies are now provided at all levels. Progress continues on our bond projects with the completion of the new Options High School in August 2017 as well as a new football/soccer field at Bellingham High School. With our One Schoolhouse approach, we ensure that children in all schools have an exemplary educational experience. The February 2018 bond proposal will continue this work to support equitable facilities throughout our school system.


Top 5 Priorities

  • Take next steps to ensure an excellent education for all students without charging families extra fees, with a focus at middle and high schools on activities and athletics, and at elementary schools on teacher stipends and field trips.
  • Develop a One Schoolhouse Approach for families to attend high school athletics and activities so that cost is not a barrier to watching their children perform.
  • Engage students, families, staff and community at Alderwood, Parkview and Sunnyland elementary schools in facilities planning related to the bond projects on the February 2018 ballot.
  • Support the opening of the new Options High School and expanded opportunities for students.
  • Continue construction of a new Sehome High School, and a central kitchen to be completed by August 2019.

The student who qualify for free and reduced meals and their athletic participation

Other Important Priorities

  • Grow Project Connect, a program that provides students in need with home computers and Internet access for research and school work free of charge.
  • Build and adopt a sustainable budget in support of our Priorities for Progress.
  • Build fair and equitable compensation models for all staff.
  • Develop a system of equity and opportunity for all with before- and after-school activities and athletics.
  • Build partnerships, financial support and grant funding through the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation to help all students.
  • Refine and strengthen the process for staffing and funding schools and programs equitably.
  • Research, evaluate and implement safety enhancement options, including access control, video, perimeter strengthening and emergency notification systems.
  • Continue to review and adjust school attendance areas (PreK-12) through the Attendance Areas PreK-12 Standing Committee to help balance enrollment, equity and diversity as we look toward future years, and engage families, staff and community partners in the process to make adjustments.
  • Continue to support the districtwide middle school fundraising collaboration.



Innovation and Flexibility

Two students on computersOur collective commitment is that each child will be exceptional in a unique way, with an array of educational and vocational options to support a diversity of life choices. A child’s post-secondary pathway may involve study at a four-year university, a two-year community college, a technical certification, or a start-up venture, among a myriad of others. To prepare our students for post-secondary options, we have implemented a technology replacement schedule to ensure students and staff have access to effective learning tools. We continue to support and integrate effective programs, such as International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID).


Top 5 Priorities

  • Implement 1:1 student access to technology program, supported by our technology levy, and support staff with professional development to adopt instruction and increase student engagement.
  • Partner with staff, students and families to implement 1:1 programs at Squalicum and Options high schools and Kulshan Middle School as part of the first cohort.
  • Continue to address high school rigor and student engagement through increased access to college-credit courses.
  • Continue upgrades to our network infrastructure to prepare for new and emerging software and assessment requirements. To ensure our students have up-to-date and reliable digital learning resources, we are continuing to replace technology annually as we implement our new 1:1 student technology program.
  • Improve Career and Technical Education (CTE) options and coordination for students.

Chart shows 1 to 1 distribution to students

Other Important Priorities

  • Increase opportunities for high school students to earn course credit based on competency rather than seat time, such as world language credits for multilingual students.
  • Continue to support all elementary schools in their exploration and authorization toward becoming International Baccalaureate (IB) schools, and as secondary schools in implementing Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID).
  • Refresh and renew classroom multimedia interactive technologies.
  • Improve outdoor educational experiences for students by visioning and planning a future bond-supported construction project at the Gordon Carter Conservation Site, which is land that the district owns near Lake Whatcom.
  • Continue innovative practices for resource conservation by working with students, staff and utility providers to reduce our use of electricity, natural gas, water and other resources.