Dear Bellevue School District Community,
If I told you about students learning computer science and adding words like algorithm, sequencing, loops, and debugging to their everyday vocabulary, it probably would not surprise you. It might surprise you, however, that the Bellevue School District (BSD) students I am talking about are in kindergarten. A team from Microsoft worked with Woodridge’s kindergarten classes this year as part of an international research study developing an educational tool for learning computational thinking and coding. This study will help students of all visual abilities acquire important computational thinking skills, as well as provide learning experiences that are imaginative, engaging, and fun for all.
This is just one example of how BSD’s exceptional educators and staff transformed the way our students perceive their own capabilities during the 2018–2019 school year. They provided countless experiences, such as the one at Woodridge, that inspired students to learn and introduced them to new possibilities.
While inspiration has the power to propel potential, it takes collaboration from all of us to exceed expectations and continue to thrive as a national model of educational excellence. Our entire community contributed to the recognition our students received this year. The honors include a group of students who were awarded for their community leadership by the City of Bellevue, sports teams from our high schools fared well at numerous state competitions from water polo to tennis, our Transition Program received the 2019 Inclusion Champion of the Year award from community partner AtWork!, and Community Leadership awards went to our Bellevue PTSA Council and Students Organized Against Racism from the Washington Association of School Administrators.
These successes and many others are possible, in part, because of BSD’s partnerships with our Parent Teacher–Student Associations (PTSAs), extensive feedback and input from members of the community, and support from the Bellevue Schools Foundation. These collaborations empower individuals and organizations to participate and invest in BSD’s shared vision: To affirm and inspire each and every student to learn and thrive as creators of their future world.
The word affirm comes first in our vision statement. We value the diverse ideas and contributions of all students and believe that their unique identities and backgrounds contribute greatly to their successful academic outcomes. We support each and every student and seek to meet their individual needs. Discrimination or marginalization of any individual or group, whether intentional or not, has no place in our community. We are grateful for the leadership of the BSD Board of Directors in its recent adoption of Policy 0130: Equity and Accountability, which is designed to intentionally and continually advance equity and inclusion districtwide.
BSD embraces opportunities to better serve each and every student. Guided by the BSD 2023 Strategic Plan—a five-year blueprint for our educational community—we are aligned and equipped to improve outcomes for all our students. However, there are challenges on the horizon.
As a district, we have finite resources and those resources are shrinking. The state legislature limits the amount of levy funding that school districts can collect locally. This year, the legislature chose to raise the limit for many districts to avert a funding crisis in some districts, but BSD was one of few districts statewide whose limit was not raised.
This means that BSD cannot collect money voters already approved for our schools, and we will see only a 1 percent increase in revenue over the next four years. At the same time, our costs are rising. One example is how the legislature has changed the way we provide benefits to our teachers and staff. The state is now requiring all school districts to purchase employee benefits from the state but only partially funding this mandate, which will leave our school district with an estimated net cost increase of $10 million. In addition, the state’s education funding models for local districts are inadequate. There is, for example, a $15 million special education funding gap that we must fill with local levy dollars.
We will continue to work closely with our legislators to address these significant issues over the next year. We will push, as we always have, for balancing high-quality education throughout our state, with an appropriate and needed level of local control. We are hopeful that the legislature will ultimately allow Bellevue to collect funds approved by the voters. Those funds are needed to provide the level of education services our community expects and support the district priorities we all share: high-quality instruction; student well-being; exceptional staff; outstanding families and community; culture and climate; and organizational alignment. We will continue to share with the legislature our community’s commitment to excellence and its desire for transformative programs and services that adequate levy funds will enable the district to provide.
By focusing on these priorities, we believe BSD will continue to be an exemplar for early childhood education, STEM, dual-language learning, athletics, humanities, music, art, college and career readiness, and more. Further, we will be able to make important investments to strengthen positive relationships, provide critical social-emotional skills, and nurture safe and positive learning environments so that all our students learn and thrive.
Thank you for joining BSD on its journey this year. And to our 1,600 graduating seniors of 2019, we’re proud of each and every one of you. Congratulations to you and your families, and much success to you as you set off on your new journey.
Bellevue School District