Happy First Day!

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear staff, students and families,

Today was the first day of school for students in grades 1-12, and I enjoyed being in our schools to experience first day excitement, jitters and anticipation. It was a joy to see so many hugs and smiling faces around our district! Good luck to our kindergarten students, families and staff tomorrow.

Dr. Baker with students

One thing I love to do when I visit schools is share lunch with staff and students. If you haven’t checked out our impressive new menu, I encourage you to do so!

As you may remember from last year, we have been working to update our strategic plan, The Bellingham Promise, to better reflect our work and ambitions around equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). We pride ourselves on using and referring to The Promise as a living document; it guides our work and evolves with our new learning. Based on your feedback, we added a sixth key strategy: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and edited our other key strategies to reflect the ways EDI influences our collective work. You’ll see new posters and flyers of The Promise around our schools, classrooms and offices. Many of our staff have been engaged in professional development over the recent months and throughout the summer that centers around EDI, and I’m proud of the work we are doing to continue creating inclusive schools and classrooms.

The Bellingham Promise poster

You’ll also notice some revisions to the mission and outcomes sections of The Promise. Our school board changed “We will empower every child to discover and develop a passion…” to “…their passions,” so we signal that students can and should have more than one interest or passion.

The board also modified one of the 17 outcomes: honest and ethical citizens who act with integrity. We heard concerns from our community that the word “citizens” could be misinterpreted, and that some may think we are excluding students and members of our community who are not U.S. citizens. In an effort to be more inclusive, we have changed the word “citizen” to “individual.”

Dr Baker with kids at Shuksan Middle School

Earlier this month, the school board adopted a new race and equity policy, which acknowledges our ongoing EDI work and keeps us accountable “to interrupt factors that perpetuate systemic inequities and practices that contribute to over- and under- representation of any student group compared to peers.” The new policy directs us to continue to “confront the institutional bias that results in predictability of student success or lack thereof, including but not limited to race and ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, ability, language and culture.” This is meaningful and challenging work that can sometimes be uncomfortable, but I encourage all of us to be bold. Disrupt racism. Advocate for those who have been marginalized. Advance our equity work. I look forward to sharing more as we continue on this journey, but we cannot do it alone; it has to be our collective commitment to our children, families, staff and community.

I hope you have a great school year, and I look forward to connecting with many of you at upcoming school, PTA and neighborhood events and meetings over the course of the year.

Greg Baker