Last updated Oct. 30, 2019

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker 

The Bellingham Promise is our district strategic plan, collaboratively developed in 2012 with staff, students, families and our community, and reviewed and updated on a regular basis. Within this document, you will find some of our work priorities organized by key strategy. Throughout our district, 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.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

TThree students in classhe support of equity, diversity, and inclusion has been ongoing work. This year we have released an updated Bellingham Promise, our strategic plan, to more explicitly call out this commitment. In addition to interrupting practices that contribute to inequities, we are increasing our offerings for professional learning to deepen our awareness of bias and factors that can influence the predictability of student success. We are committed to supporting and developing an inclusive, culturally-responsive staff while also increasing our workforce diversity. Our staff are engaged in developing school-wide cultures, spaces and practices that support all students, recognizing that our diversity is our strength, while specifically valuing the knowledge and experiences that students and families bring to each classroom, school and our system as a whole.

Top 5 Priorities

  • Continue to improve our staff professional learning with opportunities to increase culturally-responsive and anti-racist practices.
  • Partner with universities, our teacher academy and human resources to recruit and support hiring a more diverse workforce.
  • Create more opportunities to listen to minority student and family voices.
  • Develop a reporting and tracking system for incidents of bias, racism and anti-Semitism.
  • Create a mobile response team that can support staff, students and families when incidents of bias, racism or anti-Semitism occur.

Other Important Priorities

  • Continue support of our high school teacher academy that will support the development and recruitment of diverse teachers.
  • Engage, develop and continue partnerships with the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force, Western Washington University, the University of Washington and others to support social and racial justice education.
  • Develop an ethnic studies class available at our high schools.
  • Implement an administrative study group on inclusive practices.
  • Continue to provide opportunities for listening sessions with diverse staff, led by district leaders.

 

Great Teaching with Strong Support

Teacher and student at FairhavenAcross our system, we focus on ensuring high-quality and culturally-responsive instruction for all our students through effective leadership and ongoing staff learning. We are committed to offering meaningful professional development for all our staff. This year we continue to support teachers and students with the technology resources to create, collaborate and communicate through our 1:1 program. We added classroom-based devices at all elementary schools in grades 3-5 with accompanying training for teachers in digital citizenship lessons and instructional programs like Seesaw. We are continuing to implement new curriculum for middle school science and Pre-K to eighth grade social-emotional learning.

Top 5 Priorities

  • Continue to support instructional leaders in each building, including library media specialists and educational coaches, who are working to support the Promise outcomes through technology integration. Students are using technology to create, collaborate and communicate across grade levels and subjects.
  • Continue our work to build instructional intervention efforts built on our system vision that all students are exceptional. This includes our work to provide multi-tiered systems of support that connect to students’ needs, inclusive of students who are identified as needing additional instructional support in areas such as literacy, math or behavior, as well as for students who are identified as highly capable and in need of additional learning opportunities that allow them to stretch and grow.
  • Increase efforts to support mathematics and professional learning around instructional approaches to support our Bridges curriculum in the elementary schools, as well as professional learning opportunities in both the middle and high schools.
  • Continue our implementation of professional learning and new curriculum in the area of social-emotional learning. All elementary and middle schools are completing the curriculum implementation process, including Caring School Communities at the elementary, and the RULER curriculum at the middle school level. Efforts will continue to move this work into the high schools, working with counselors and others to build on our existing efforts to support the social-emotional health of all students.
  • Support new teacher mentoring through a state grant to build the instructional repertoire and capacity of our new teachers in Bellingham. Our support for novice teachers is growing and realizing better results helping teachers enter the profession with success.

Other Important Priorities

  • Instructional improvement efforts include multiple approaches to growing teachers’ skills sets to reach all learners. Inquiry-based strategies for improving learning are occurring in multiple ways. These include ongoing trainings for teachers in Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) strategies, as well as efforts to implement the program of the International Baccalaureate (IB) in seven of our fourteen elementary schools and the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program in seven out of eight secondary schools.
  • Continue to review our high school schedule, which includes changes to the positioning of the advisory class period in the new schedule this year.
  • Continue to prioritize strategic and differentiated investments in smaller class sizes in grades K-3, meeting our state class size requirements as well as distributing teaching resources in an equitable manner ensuring all students in the early grades have access to high quality teaching in classroom environments that allow teachers to reach all students.
  • Develop equitable grading practices across all grade levels, including new efforts through a task force to examine and improve high school grading practices.
Early Childhood Education

Preschoolers at a tableOur commitment to early childhood education continues. Through voter support, Bellingham has been providing full-time kindergarten for all students since 2011. In 2015, we expanded our Promise Kindergarten (Promise K) program that grants educational opportunities to pre-K students who don’t have access to high quality early learning. The GRADS teen parenting program is now offered at Options, Sehome and Squalicum high schools. We have Title 1 preschools at Alderwood and Cordata elementary schools.

Top 5 Priorities

  • Support the continued growth of Promise K beyond the walls of Bellingham by helping the state of Washington as it develops guidance and policies so that this transitional kindergarten program can succeed statewide.
  • Provide support, training and development for PreK and primary teachers to enhance practices that are equitable, align curriculum and outcomes and focus on more inclusive practices.
  • 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. Engage with advisory groups, including higher education representatives and community partners, to determine next steps for expanding preschool and GRADS, our program for teen parents and their children.
  • In partnership with teachers, administrators and higher education, create task forces for kindergarten and first grade that focus on aligned curriculum, practices, and family engagement.

Other Important Priorities

  • Continue our work as a state leader in early learning by supporting kindergarten and physical education instruction with WaKIDS data collection, and by providing professional development for specialists and administrators.
  • Develop effective support models for students entering kindergarten: keeping kindergarten class size ratios the lowest. Add more adults in classrooms at the beginning of the school year, strengthening preschool and kindergarten 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).
  • 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

Common ThreadsBellingham Public Schools is always growing partnerships and expanding communications with our families, stakeholders and community members to enhance student success. Our committees and advisory groups give recommendations for program enhancements. Our school board holds community linkages several times a year to gain insight into our schools. The Family Partnership Program, which supports homeschooling families, continues to grow. The family engagement team connects with families at our Family Resource Centers, (FRC) which are located at Shuksan Middle School and Carl Cozier Elementary School. The centers link families with a number of resources, including translation and interpretation services, food banks, technology, homeless support 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

  • Engage our community, especially underrepresented families, through listening sessions with the school board, school and district leaders.
  • Continue our partnership with the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation to support families with resources at the Family Resource Center.
  • Increase our home visit program to new families, especially those who speak languages other than English, or who need resources, and/or are marginalized.
  • Implement our new language access policy to fully support our families that speak languages other than English.
  • Engage our staff, students, families and community about our levy elections in February.

Other Important Priorities

  • Connect our students, families and community with our revised strategic plan, The Bellingham Promise and our expanded focus on EDI.
  • Facilitate direct engagement with our community, staff, families and students to the superintendent via social media.
  • Continue to monitor school culture through our annual school climate surveys.
  • Expand our volunteer program by engaging community partners that can “adopt a school” to support staff, students and families in innovative ways.
  • Continue to increase our parent education programs to support our families.
  • Continue to host and organize large family engagement events, e.g. Latinx Summit and Desi Party.
One Schoolhouse

Students at FairhavenOur One Schoolhouse Approach describes how we visualize our work to ensure all students and families will be cared for and respected. We focus our efforts on reducing barriers for our families and opening access for all to fully engage in the school experience. One of our top initiatives has been Project Free Education; we provide all school supplies for families and reduce costs in countless other areas as well. This includes elimination of course fees, testing fees, reduced athletic and activity costs, field trip expenses and more. This past year we were able to continue our bond projects, which opened Sehome High School and the new Central Kitchen. Sehome is a beautiful, new school that provides ideal spaces for teaching, learning and community building. The new Central Kitchen allows us to provide delicious, healthy meals at all our schools. This year we will be installing new turf fields at all our comprehensive high schools to provide greater opportunities.

Top 5 Priorities

  • Continue and complete various construction projects that benefit all students and increase accessibility to programs. Sites include a new Alderwood Elementary, new Parkview Elementary, increased gym capacity at Shuksan, and completion of the turf field projects at Sehome, Bellingham and Squalicum high schools.
  • Prioritize Project Free Education (PFE) as we continue to increase opportunities and reduce barriers for our families. Continue all current PFE efforts as well as refine costs associated with graduation (i.e. caps, gowns, etc.) and expand driver’s education.
  • Refine our fundraising policies and practices to further reduce the burden and expectations placed on families. Examples include expanding our Elementary Equity Project in coordination with the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation and exploring the opportunity for community and business sponsors as funding partners
  • Adopt an attendance area proposal that will balance enrollment within our existing boundaries and expand the socio-economic diversity within many of our schools.
  • Further develop our elementary after school enrichment programs at Alderwood and Cordata elementary schools. Expand coordination and partnering with The Foundation and community partners for funding.

Other Important Priorities

  • Begin District Office rebuild planning process to improve staff, student and family access to services.
  • Build community, higher education and agency partnerships to increase equity and access for all students.
  • Complete the remodel of our transportation facility to provide a modern and safe facility to maintain our fleet of school buses.
  • Add funding to support music and theater programs in the district, including costs associated with music competitions, theater support personnel, new theater curtains, a new grand piano, and band uniforms for students.
  • Further develop of our Unified activity and athletic programs, increasing opportunities for participation in athletics and activities for students who receive services in Special Education, as well as general education. Opportunities now include bowling, soccer, basketball, volleyball, flag football and robotics.

 

 

Innovation and Flexibility

Sunnyland computersEvery child is exceptional in their own way. We offer an array of educational and vocational options to support a diversity of life choices. A child’s post-secondary pathway may involve studying at a four-year university or a two-year community college, pursuing a technical certification, or heading directly into the workforce, among a myriad of other paths. To prepare our students, we support a technology-rich learning environment to ensure students and staff have access to relevant and effective learning tools, content and curriculum. We continue to support and integrate effective programs, such as International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID).

Top 5 Priorities

  • Introduce new menu and materials about the Good Food Project, guided by the Good Food Promise, to provide students and staff “good food made with love” through delicious, healthy and scratch-cooked meals in our schools from our Central Kitchen.
  • Extend student in-classroom 1:1 device access to elementary students, specifically grades three through five, and continue to support 1:1 student technology programs to all our middle and high school students, all supported by our technology levy.
  • Design new flexible learning environments for our youngest learners as we plan for updated Alderwood and Parkview elementary schools, projects funded by our 2018 bond.
  • Provide technology professional development for teachers through in-building educational technology coaches as well as time for building-based and individual learning.
  • Extend our use of new transportation technologies to increase safety and improve communication with schools and families.

Other Important Priorities

  • Prepare for a major update to our Student Information System (Skyward), which will provide an updated, easier-to-use environment for our staff and families.
  • Support new resources for athletics and activities programs to make sign-up, athletic clearance, and communication easier for our students, families, coaches and coordinators.
  • Continue to offer a wide selection of athletic, visual and performing arts, and elective courses for our high school students through our extended schedule.
  • Continue to expand Career and Technology Education (CTE) course offerings at middle and high schools, including aeronautic, sports medicine and plan for a culinary arts programs.
  • Support staff and student use of Seesaw, a digital portfolio and home-to-school communication platform, at all elementary schools.