Lake Washington School District (LWSD) Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce proudly displayed the button she and others were wearing, emblazoned with the district motto: “Growing together, serving our community.”
About an hour earlier on Nov. 18, Dr. Pierce gave a state of the district address to a roomful of about 70 people, including elected officials, heads of agencies, business leaders and parent leaders, at the inaugural Community Leaders Breakfast held in the district’s Resource Center Board Room in Redmond.
“We could not do our work without all of you,” Pierce told the attendees.
During her address, Pierce shared LWSD’s mission and vision for its students, highlighted some of its programs — from preschool through high school and a New Teacher Support Program — and thanked the community for its support and involvement.
She also read from President Obama’s proclamation to celebrate American Education Week, which focused on communities recommitting to helping schools be the best they can be and helping students achieve their dreams.
Pierce noted that she believes if the district stays true to its four core values and five strategic goals, then LWSD will be on the road to completing its mission and vision.
The core values are being student centered, learning focused, community connected and results oriented; the strategic goals are ensuring academic success for every student; providing safe and innovative learning environments; recruiting, hiring and retaining highly effective personnel; using resources effectively and being fiscally responsible; and engaging its communities.
“I’m most proud of the fact that we have such a great community who cares about public education,” Pierce said. “Everyone’s willing to work together, whether you’re from the city or from business or community to help our schools be great. I’m just proud to be a part of that.”
Here’s some of LWSD’s student successes that Pierce highlighted at the event:
• The district’s graduation rate has risen over the past three years from 89 percent to 92 percent. The state average is 77 percent.
• Ninety-two percent of seniors graduated on time last spring, and half of the students who did not graduate on time are still enrolled and working to complete their high school diploma. The target is 100 percent graduation by 2018.
• Currently, 81 percent of students enter a two- or four-year college directly after high school compared to 62 percent statewide. The target is 88 percent post-secondary enrollment by 2018.
• Eighty-nine percent of students earn college credit while still in high school.
• LWSD students outperform state and national averages on tests. Average SAT critical reading scores in the district rose by 11 points over last year. Reading scores across the state of Washington fell by eight points, and nationally, reading scores decreased by two points.
• SAT writing scores rose by 11 points; state scores fell by seven and national scores fell by three.
• SAT math scores were the highest they have been in the past four years. They rose nine points over last year, while state scores fell eight points and national scores fell by two points.
• Students in grades 3-8 performed 23–27 percent higher than the state average on the new state assessments.
Another highlight of the event was a Skype session with Lake Washington High School astronomy teacher Ryan Palmer and his students. LWSD communications director Kathryn Reith
noted that Palmer and one of his students spoke about having one-to-one laptops and communicating through a learning management system called haiku.
Pierce added that LWSD received awards for reducing waste and saving energy and dollars; got clean results from audits; and saved taxpayers money through bond refinancing.
Pierce also spoke about the district’s enrollment growth, which has averaged an additional 625 students per year over the past five years. LWSD is now the fourth-largest district in the state with 27,830 students.
“Our biggest challenge right now is really connected to our second goal to provide safe and innovative learning environments, in that based on our growth and our need to address the aging facilities, we just don’t have enough classroom space for students,” Pierce said.
She said by the end of next year, LWSD will have 168 portables across the district and the district grew 1,114 students in the last year. To solve the growth challenge, they convened the Long-Term Facilities Planning Task Force last year. From December 2014 until November 2015, the group engaged with the community, did analysis and research. They recommended that the district needs to build more schools, and Pierce said LWSD will be taking the next steps in 2016 toward making that happen.
“I’m proud of where we are and where we’re headed,” Pierce said. “There’s always work to do. We don’t rest on our laurels. We’re always trying to see how we can improve and do things better.”
On the teacher front regarding student growth, Pierce added: “As we grow, we’re going to need more teachers, just like everyone else across the state. So that challenge of how do we set ourselves apart as a place where people will want to come and work, that’s something we’re focusing on.”