EDI, Facilities and Food Services Update

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear students, staff, families and community members,

It’s hard to believe it’s already the sixth week of school. I’d like to share a few updates, including some of our ongoing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work; facility-related highlights; and some kudos for our food services team.

#Exceptionalstudents

The mission of our strategic plan, The Bellingham Promise, says “all students will be exceptional in their own way.” This is a powerful statement, and I believe we can all improve upon the way we talk about our children by focusing on their strengths and potential, as opposed to their needs or services. At our annual staff kick-off event in August, I encouraged our staff to talk about people first, and I’d like to extend that request to our community at large. Instead of “this English Language Learner (ELL) student” or “this Special Education student,” we can use the phrase “this exceptional student who receives ELL services” or “this exceptional student who receives Special Education services.” This is the same for students receiving highly capable services, or students in particular programs such as Bridges or Life Skills or even students experiencing homelessness.  It may seem like a small distinction, but it’s important to remember that no one is defined by their needs. Let’s keep working on this together and supporting one another with these efforts.

Facility Highlights

Sehome field construction aerial view

We have some exciting news to share related to facilities projects, which are made possible thanks to generous voter support of our bonds in 2013 and 2018. You’ll remember we opened the new Sehome High School in January, and now the rest of the site, including parking lots and soccer, baseball and softball turf fields are nearing completion (see photo above). You can see more photos of our progress here (and photos of a special visitor on Oct. 2 – details below) or watch our work zone web cam. Speaking of turf fields, the construction process has begun on Squalicum High School’s new softball and football fields, which should be complete by January. We are going to pull together staff and coaches at Bellingham High School to talk more about phase two of their turf fields for baseball, football and softball. Those fields should be complete by winter 2020.

Crews are currently working on renovating our transportation garage on James Street, which is 60 years old. The project involves interior improvements, including our service bays; vehicle hoists; fluid and air distribution; and parts and tool storage. This upgrade is scheduled to be completed by spring 2020.

You can see updates on all other capital projects here, including our design work and recommendations for the new Alderwood and Parkview elementary schools. We hope to be breaking ground on both projects by spring 2020.

Coming soon: We plan to share a call for applications for design advisory committees for the Sunnyland Elementary rebuild and the new District Office on Barkley Boulevard.

Food Services

I have received a number of positive comments and reviews of our new school lunch menu. I wanted to acknowledge the amazing work of our food services team, including Executive Chef Patrick Durgan and Food Services Culinary Program Supervisor Mataio Gillis. We have more staff eating lunch than ever before. Our top three schools for staff participation at this point are Whatcom, Kulshan and Options (I share this only to up the ante with our friendly competition among staff to see who can be #1). We also encourage families to come eat lunch with their child. It’s a great way to build community and engage with our schools and students, and of course, enjoy a delicious meal.

And a shout-out to Taste Washington Day. Yesterday, Washington state first lady Trudi Inslee visited the Central Kitchen, Cordata Elementary and Sehome yesterday with a team of district staff and farmers, along with representatives from a number of state and local agencies and non-profits, including the Washington Department of Agriculture, OSPI, the state and Whatcom’s Farm-to-School, Common Threads, Lummi Nation, Lummi Wild and Whatcom Community Foundation.

Trudi Inslee with two students

I’ll end with a fun video to illustrate our journey to revamp school lunch.

 

Greg Baker