In his address to staff last month during professional development and planning with BSD administrators, Incoming Superintendent Dr. Kelly Aramaki shares his commitment to district staff, students and families, his vision for a future of flourishing in the Bellevue School District, and the five priorities that will help us get there. The five priorities are:
- Student and Staff Well-Being
- Beloved Community in Bellevue
- A Generation of Solutionaries
- Innovation – Dream It. Do It.
- Cultivating Joy
“We have the opportunity in Bellevue to create what Dr. King refers to as ‘The Beloved Community.’ He describes the Beloved Community as a place where people truly care for one another, absent of hunger, poverty and hate. Our kids are asking for this in order to learn, thrive and belong. If we follow our kids’ lead, we have the chance in Bellevue to deliver on Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community.”
-Dr. Kelly Aramaki
And now I am truly honored that I have the opportunity to introduce you to our new incoming superintendent Dr. Kelly Aramaki
[Applause] Hi everybody! It’s great to be here. I’m just watching the video listening to the students and the staff I mean I’m just so proud to be a part of the Bellevue School District that that’s the feeling that I have right now — it’s just an intense amount of pride to be part of this organization and to be a colleague with all of you, so thank you for being here today. And I just want to thank you for being so warm and embracing of me in this new role um I’m thrilled to be able to take it on I’m thrilled to be able to serve our community in this way so thanks it also feels a little bit like church there’s nobody sitting in front row!
Okay so we’re having internet issues. Okay I can stall. I’ll stall by just saying something that’s remarkable to me looking at the high school kids. I love that we’re here today at Newport High School this is the school that I graduated from [Applause]
I was part of the class of 1993. Our football team were Champions that year but I would also say we were nothing in my mind like the students who are sitting over here because my memories of being at Newport was in the old building rolling bowling balls down the long hallway we also I think when I was a freshman we had as part of homecoming week we had colors day where freshmen worldwide and then the sophomores were yellow and it was we had a really terrible assembly where we’re throwing food and mustard and whipped cream and so I’m pretty sure our principal after that was like this is over so that was that was our Legacy at Newport and I’m not gonna now I mean it’s like that’s called progress so um I’m really thrilled um so what I’m going to do is today um I’m just going to share a little bit um we are going through some challenging times I mean we’ve been through challenging times we’re going through challenging times and so I do want to acknowledge that and over the next few years um we’re gonna have to hang in there together because uh we’re in a time of declining enrollment we’re in a time of of challenges with budget and so I just want to put that into the space I don’t want to dwell on it too much today but I just want to acknowledge that I know how hard that is for all of us and my encouragement to us as a system is to hang in there together and to try to stay as United as possible um because the we have to be together as we navigate these challenges so that we can be stronger coming out of it but today I’m going to talk a little bit about myself just so you can get to know me a little bit better I don’t love talking about myself but I um I want you to know a little bit about who I am and why I love Bellevue and this District so much and then I want to talk a little bit about kind of my dream for the future of Bellevue um just from talking with students talking with staff being part of the community I have some thoughts about what I’d like to see over the next decade and I I want to use this as kind of a jumping off point so we can build it together so I’ll start by um by just kind of showing you um kind of the theme of my presentation is past present and future and this is a picture of Bellevue this is Lake Bellevue right there um and so we’re looking at it from where Whole Foods is so if we were standing at Whole Foods this is kind of what we’re looking at or if you’re jaffco if you remember jaffco or best that’s kind of where it was right here so Lake bellevue’s right there and then these are all um Japanese American farmland and so right about here is where the aramaki farm was uh before World War II and then right after World War II so the school district office is over to the right The Crab Pot is kind of right here um but it’s I love this picture because it really anchors me in kind of the history of of Bellevue and and my family in Bellevue one of the things that um that I’ve been thinking about especially as I’ve been going through the hiring process for the superintendency is as I’ve been reflecting on my own family’s history uh here in Bellevue and people have been asking me about kind of you know what it’s like you know being Japanese-American and then the whole history of the internment and everything I think the thing that I always go back to is you know owning land being displaced from Land it it is it is remarkable that my family’s been here for 123 years here in Bellevue since 1900 but that is a very short amount of time compared to since time immemorial and so I just want to Anchor kind of this whole conversation about my family’s history in the idea that like even before the Japanese Americans were here before before all of the development that’s here right now we had our Native American brothers and sisters who have had this land and had been caretakers of this land and so I I just bowled this part of our land acknowledgment that we say at every board meeting but I reflect on the historic context that brings us including my family to reside here in Bellevue and accept responsibility to interrupt eraser so this is uh just a drawing map of the of the farmland and you can see here this is kind of the other other view of the of Lake Bellevue uh and then there’s the Aramaki farm here that’s where Bell Road is uh Northeast 8th
this is a picture of my family’s first house so this before they moved to the farm on Lake Bellevue um they lived in this little house along 116th so kind of that Bellevue Auto row uh by where the PCC is but that’s the first house that’s where my grandfather was born so you can see my grandfather there is the little guy up on the porch and then that’s my great grandfather Hikotaro he’s the one who immigrated from Japan to Bellevue in 1900
um we have this amazing kind of uh obituary that we found of uh of my great grandfather they called him Jim Hill Aramaki but it’s um I love reading it and I just pulled out a couple of things just so you could see kind of my family’s Legacy in Bellevue uh one of the first Japanese to settle in Bellevue in Bellevue Aramaki gained many friends among the Americans for his kind efforts and work on behalf of the whole Community he helped build the Japanese Community to what it is today the most centralized Cooperative closely bound Japanese community in Washington and of course that was written before World War II so a lot of things changed after that but um that that was something uh that was what what they had written about him in his life
And then I think everybody knows you know in 1942 with World War II uh there was Executive Order 9066 which then sent all Japanese Americans into internment camps and so my family um they went to the Thule Lake internment camp and then moved to the Minidoka internment camp and then eventually were able to make their way back to Bellevue and so neighbors had kept the farm for them but when they returned everything was gone so they had to rebuild uh from there but they were one of the lucky ones because so many Japanese Americans lost everything during World War II
So then from there our family moving back to Bellevue I just want to show you this picture of my family and the connection to the Bellevue School District um we we have four generations now that have gone through the Bellevue School District um and so I’ll start with uh down there in the bottom right is my grandfather Akira Aramaki he graduated from Bellevue High School in 1931. and so that was a long time ago and Bellevue is celebrating its uh 100th anniversary this coming year and so it is a great time of celebration for Bellevue High School and um what was amazing looking through his yearbook Vic Anderson sent me um the yearbook the annual from 1931. and it talks about my grandfather being a great basketball player he was in a a play um and so it was it was amazing to see that you know even during a time of of you know quite a bit of racism and things you know at Bellevue High School my grandfather was included you know in in the school and then um after the war my father there’s my dad he’s the good looking one so he um graduated from Sammamish High School so Sammamish then had opened up like in 1961. He graduated from Sammamish in 1965. um and uh he always talks about you know being a track star and stuff so I think the whole Sports thing kind of ended with him um because
It feels embarrassing but there’s me and that’s my senior picture I look like I’m still in Middle School.
But anyways so that’s me 1993 at from Newport High School and then um I had this picture of my sister Karen uh she’s about 10 years younger than me and she was born with threat syndrome and so she uh um because of her disability you know she went through the Pacific program here at Bellevue so she went to Anna Thai she went to Sherwood Forest Highland Middle School she went to Interlake High School and then graduated after she went through the transitions program and I I include her to show um just the pride in her graduating from Interlake High School but also just to say to all of our special education staff that I’m so um…
uh I’m so fine I’m fine
um [Applause] so much hope and joy and I’m thankful for you she’s still doing a really great she lives with my parents in Factoria and but I just um from the bus drivers to the teachers to the pairs everybody um just loved her so much and just gave her such a great education so I just I say that to say I am always going to be a huge advocate for our special education teachers and staff you do such remarkable work and so thank you for that [Applause] and then my pride and joy up in the top right is Hannah my daughter she’s a ninth grader at Interlake High School.
She has humbled me.
I mean my whole career has been Elementary education and so I’ve always been helping parents navigate all the challenges of parenting and then and then I have a teenager and so um anyway she’s really awesome and I’m super thankful for the Interlake High School staff um she’s having a really great year um and so and I attribute it all to you uh so thank you uh but that that is my family’s Legacy uh you know here in Bellevue we are all in for the Bellevue School District every decision that I make even if it’s a hard one I want you to know it comes out of complete love for this school district and for staff and for students and families.
so that brings us to
We um we have been through, as Sharon said, over the past four years a lot together the last four years have been so challenging and you all have done remarkable things I know that there’s always conversations about we could have done this better we could have done that better we could have chosen to do this we could have chosen to that the bottom line is you did remarkable things over the past four years uh when we went into lockdown uh locked in when we when we had to send everybody home get computers to all our elementary school students you literally in within days turned and the whole education system around and provided education to kids through the use of Technology you had to change everything you knew about classroom management how to engage students you had to think so differently about mental health and wellness you had to think so differently about how you make connections with kids and you didn’t and I am so proud of you for doing that and it was so hard and it’s all while your own kids are sitting at home with you trying to learn you’re also worried about your own health and so I just want to say this publicly that I honor you for the work that you did during the pandemic it was very very challenging and you made us very very proud. [Applause]
As we as we come out of the pandemic you know we continue to face challenges you know our students have been impacted for sure I mean at the elementary level the way that we see it is a lot of times it’s coming out in behaviors and things like that at the secondary level maybe some of that also but when I look at my um my daughter her friends um we are definitely seeing an impact of the pandemic on student Mental Health and so um I I’m thankful for the counselors in the mental health assistance team for the work that they’re doing for the students uh and providing that mental health support but we we are in a different time right now and so we have to do some adjusting um this is a quote from Arundhati Roy. I think many people know this I I talk about it as many times as I possibly can but this is kind of the frame that I think about when I think about the future coming out of the pandemic and moving into the future uh she says um historically pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew this one is no different it is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next we can choose to walk through it dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred are avarice our data banks and dead ideas are dead rivers and Smoky Skies behind us or we can walk through lightly with little luggage ready to imagine another world and ready to fight for it.
We have an opportunity in the field of Education as we come through this pandemic to just think differently we have an opportunity to take the things that didn’t work for each and every kid and make it better so that we can serve kids equitably and so that that is my hope as we move into the future and that’s kind of the frame for what I’m dreaming about and so the the school board asked me how long I would hope to be here I told them I’m willing to serve for as long as you’re going to have me I’d love to be here 10 12 years um and in that amount of time over the next decade I want to see us in a time of flourishing for students and for staff and so what that means to me is this I’m going to show you kind of five different things um that I’m thinking about for the future um this is just my thinking based on what I’ve heard from staff from students and families I want this just to be the beginning of a conversation with you because I want to design this together.
So these are the five things, I don’t want it to be overwhelming there’s so many cross connections and things like this but here’s where my heart is the first one is this over the next 10 years. I want us just to be laser focused on student and staff well-being and I don’t want it to be student and staff well-being in service of something else. I want us to focus on student and staff well-being just for itself just as for itself as an outcome. We want to care for the students and the staff that are in our system what this means is we have to figure out a way to keep prioritizing mental health supports for our kids. We have to continue to take care of the mental and social emotional Wellness of our students and we have to do the same for our staff you all are human beings you all care and are doing everything you’re giving your whole life to this work for students and I want to be a superintendent who takes care of you also and make sure that your mental health and wellness is considered in all of the work we do so that is going to be one of the first priorities for me.
One thing that is on my heart is Dr. King’s vision of a Beloved Community and so he he talks about a Beloved Community as a community where people care about each other and where there is no hunger poverty or hate the Beloved Community I feel like in Bellevue that is something that we can create for this community a Beloved Community and what that means is that we we look out for each other. You know, we have different viewpoints. There’s nobody in here that has exactly the same viewpoints on everything. And so the Beloved Community is where we learn each other’s perspectives. We call each other in we don’t call each other out. And we build community together we care about each other and we hold Community above self. So this is something that’s important to me. I know that a number of the schools here have been working on supporting our students who are new to the United States, who have limited English, interrupted education, many of our students we have, a number of students who have made the dangerous trek up through South and Central America through the Border up through the United States in order to be here. Somehow they’ve made this journey to be here in Bellevue. Many of them are not accompanied by parents, they are just here by themselves. And Beloved Community is a place where we take care of the most vulnerable, the most marginalized. And so for me, what I want to make sure we do is as we’re doing amazing things by our kids. We’re sending kids to college and preparing them to do great things I want us to give every opportunity to the most marginalized, the most vulnerable. And I want us to be judged by that so that is for me the Beloved Community. We have it! I mean just looking at the staff and the students who are building that this is what we’re talking about this is the Deep racial equity work the deep identity work that we’re doing in our classrooms. [Applause]
This third one is around Innovation and so this is kind of going back to the quote but we have the opportunity to do things different and so I just want to put that out there as an encouragement of if you as staff can dream it then I want us to do it if the students have something that they’re dreaming about for their own education for their careers I want us to do it this is permission for us to think out of the box and to do radical things for our kids some of the examples you know we um this fall we’re launching the Arabic language program and so there’s no other District in the state that is doing is bringing Arabic language into the public education system and we’re going to do it because people had a dream about centering our students who speak Arabic at home or whose families have Arabic language as part of their Heritage and we want to do that people had a dream about that and we want to do that we want to bring things like Aviation the kids are so into like Robotics and Aviation and so we want to bring Aviation Aerospace into our schools and I know that we already have Excellence around that I mean the Newport Rocketry Team the the Robotics teams, I mean just amazing stuff when the kids want more of that and so we want to be able to do it so whatever we can dream for our kids I want us to be able to do that so Innovation I want that to be a Hallmark of the next 10 years and then the generation of solutionaries is um is the thing that gives me the most hope and this is the theme for today but you know my commute from I live right around Interlake High School I dropped off my daughter and then I come to work it’s only like 10 minutes so I it’s very short but in that 10 minutes of time listening to NPR is very depressing I mean 10 minutes of major downer. I mean real political division celebrities doing bad things like it’s just one after another but the thing that gives me hope is like our students are we’re growing them raising them and they’re going out wanting to make the world better, more equitable, more humane, more sustainable. That’s what that is, what gives me hope. And so I would love it if when people hear about the Bellevue School District around the world they don’t just think of academic excellence. I want them to think, “Wow Bellevue, that isn’t that the school district that graduates all these people who then like go and solve the next pandemic that the kids who actually do something about environmental sustainability?” The kids who go here care about the poor. And and the thing I love about the Antigua story is it’s not just about going in and helping people who are poor it’s about loving them and seeing them as equals and building relationships and learning from them like those are the things that we’re teaching our kids in the Bellevue School District and they’re going to grow up and they’re going to do amazing things I mean I one of these kids might be a future superintendent of the Bellevue School District or something even greater so it’s just it’s it’s amazing to me I’m super inspired by that and then the last one I know this is getting long and I’m like okay
this last one um some people might find it a little bit cheesy for me when I talk about it it um it puts me in a different space but I want the next 10 years
to have this like influx of joy in our system because we’ve been through so much hard times because every day is challenging I wanted to be that when we wake up in the morning Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday or Friday for a PD day that we wake up and we’re like yes I get to go to work I I want um It seems impossible I mean this morning I was like oh my gosh it seems impossible but that’s why I put the word cultivating because it’s something that we have to like intentionally think about it’s not really something that just happens it’s something that we have to say we’re gonna cultivate Joy we’re gonna prioritize Joy you know our professional development we I want it to be about Joy when we learn in classrooms I want it to be about Joy I want the students when they wake up to be like I can’t wait to go to first period today we’re going to talk about sustainability like I want it to be about joy and the thing I’ll say about Joy is this some of you might be simple like me joy is literally seeing the Starbucks in at the meeting with the maple bar and then I’m done I’m good for the day that’s my joy is a good donut a cup of coffee I’ll get there early just for that for others it’s more than that for some people it’s about the relationship with colleagues it’s about being with each other going through things together we we want to create kind of affinity groups and so we have our our teachers of color educators of color Network like for some it’s finding Affinity spaces here in the bucket School District we want to do things you know for people that that actually bring joy to them and it’s different for each person for other people it’s being connected to your uh your mission or your purpose and so raising solutionaries, creating a Beloved Community, for some people that’s where the joy is. The other thing I’ll mention is I’m reading a book called “Unearthing Joy” by Goldie Muhammad and it is an amazing book because she shows the connection between joy and racial equity. And she talks about how for many of our BIPOC students, joy comes from your identity, being seen and affirmed and knowing that when you go to school that your teachers and the staff and your your classmates are going to help you to thrive as a human being and that your potential is going to be realized. And so for many many kids and for many people Joy is about that deep connection to Identity and affirmation being seen being in a Beloved Community and knowing that you are going to be able to thrive and that your passions and talents are going to be cultivated and so this word Joy it has so many different meanings but I want that to be where people when we look back on this next decade people say it was a great time to be an educator in Bellevue it was a great time to be a student in Bellevue um the image here is a petunia and in her book she talks about petunia as a flower and the thing that I think is amazing is she says petunias are beautiful um it’s one of my favorite flowers once you plant them you know they just grow and grow and grow and they’re beautiful but she makes the point to say uh The Gardener we don’t put the beauty in the petunia the beauty of the of the petunia is from its DNA. It’s in the seed it is already there all it needs is for somebody to plant it, cultivate the ground, water it, care for it, weed around it, and then it blooms. And so that petunia it represents our kids they they don’t need us to put beauty in them. They have the beauty inside them and as stat you don’t need anyone to put that in you you have that in you we just need a system that that cultivates the the environment so that you thrive so that um I’ll just end with that by saying this poem by Alice Walker.
No matter how hard my my teachers at Newport tried I really try to understand poetry um and so I’m pretty sure I I’m only getting this at the surface level and some of you are going to be like wow that this one is actually even more deep than what he’s saying but um what Alice Walker says um is the nature of this flower is to bloom rebellious living against the elemental Crush a song of color blooming for deserving eyes blooming gloriously for itself.
My closing is this. Some of you have seen this before but this is a picture of my daughter first day of kindergarten coming off the bus. It was a little old iPhone. I feel like this is like some award-winning photo but
She ran into my arms and she said school was so fun today.
And I’m like I hang on to that because I don’t hear that a lot right now like just because she’s 14 years old and even if she did have a great day um she never says that and she doesn’t look like that anymore but I hang on to that like I want that’s what I want from my daughter for all of our kids for all of us as Educators is that sense of life school was awesome today so thank you everybody thank you for being here.