Listen & Learn: Superintendent Entry Plan Report
Dear Bellevue students, families, staff, and community,
As your new superintendent, the purpose of my entry plan was to listen and learn as much as possible about our schools and community so that we can build on our strengths and continue to improve in order to meet the needs of all students. Since joining the Bellevue School District, it has been my pleasure to speak with students, families, staff, community members, and education partners, as well as business and community leaders and elected officials.
This report contains key learnings including highlights and opportunities for growth. The information herein will help guide the development of our strategic plan for the next five years.
By listening, learning, and applying what we learn, we will be in a great position to define common goals, align resources, and take strategic action to build on our strengths and support all students.”
As we move forward, I will continue to listen to and learn from our students, families, staff, and community to set our course for the future, define benchmarks of success, and ensure that we continue the rigorous expectations for all Bellevue students and staff.
Thank you to all who participated in this process. Your contributions were invaluable.
I look forward to meeting with more of you, continuing to build on the foundation of excellence, and striving together toward closing the achievement gaps to provide an exemplary college preparatory education for all of our students.
Dr. Ivan Duran
Entry Plan Goals
The entry plan focused on learning as much as possible about our schools and community so that we can build on our strengths and continue to improve. By listening, learning, and applying what we learn, we will be in a great position to define common goals, align resources, and take strategic action.
- Learn about the direction of the Bellevue School District as much as possible in order to gain insight into its strengths, challenges, and areas of improvement so we can best serve our students.
- Learn how the district’s initiatives and priorities are being implemented in our schools by our dedicated staff.
- Learn about the values, norms, and expectations of our supportive community to best serve our students.
- Gain a better appreciation of how the district’s initiatives and priorities are publicized and understood in our community.
- Utilize the information gathered to:
- Create a transparent and reciprocal process with school and community members that is based on mutual trust and commitment to understand and address the district’s strengths and challenges.
- Develop a plan of strategic actions or refinements for the school district.
Listening & Learning Tour
During the listening tour, feedback was received from a broad range of stakeholders. Over 50 individual groups were interviewed one-on-one and a number of teachers provided feedback through an online survey. The following pages highlight what we learned about our community’s perceptions of students, equity and access, parents and community, staff, and our story.
Students are at the center of everything we do in the Bellevue School District. During the Listening & Learning Tour, Superintendent Duran met with some high school students to hear their thoughts on what makes the Bellevue School District a great place to learn, and what school and district leaders could do to ensure that all students are able to achieve success. Students spoke highly of both the rigor and options provided to them as part of their academic programs and discussed the large number of extracurriculars available to them. The great diversity of our school district also helped many students feel as if they belong at their schools. Students also provided some suggestions on how we could further enhance the educational experience.
- Many BSD students spoke positively about the district’s strong academic rigor.
- Students appreciate how Bellevue’s seventh period provides greater access to interest-based electives.
- Students are excited by the amount of participation in athletics, clubs, and activities.
- There were many comments praising the amount of extracurricular opportunities offered throughout the district including athletics, activities, clubs, fundraising, and community service.
- Many students feel welcomed in their school community and point to Bellevue’s incredible diversity as a positive influence.
- Students spoke positively about mentorship programs like Link Crew and actively seek out ways to expand mentor opportunities.
- Students pointed to a need to focus on whole child wellness, including mental health-related issues and dealing with academic stress and pressure.
- A number of students talked about the need to focus on student identity, student voice, and participation.
- BSD should consider adding more counselors, ideally working full time, at elementary, middle, and high schools to meet growing needs.
- Other students talked about the importance of meeting the needs of individual students through differentiation, culturally responsive teaching, and different models of inclusion.
- Some stated that students should be offered more options and pathways with flexibility for different circumstances.
- Some students are dealing with trauma, and unaddressed trauma is leading to behavior problems.
Parents & Community
Parents and community partners were eager to share their thoughts and suggestions with Dr. Duran. During his Listening & Learning Tour, he repeatedly saw the entire Bellevue community’s support for high-quality education. The community takes pride in the Bellevue School District’s reputation for academic excellence and sees the diversity of the student body and staff as a great strength. They also recognize that the Bellevue community is changing, and with those changes comes a need to rethink the programs and services the District provides in order to ensure that all of our students have an equal chance at success. Both parents and community members are keen for more opportunities to engage with the school district and support students.
- Bellevue students, parents, staff, and community members have a clear academic focus and want all students to succeed.
- Stakeholders take pride in Bellevue’s reputation for academic excellence.
- Our community and parents are supportive of our students and schools. From supporting bond and levy measures, to the
- Bellevue Schools Foundation, there is a willingness to do what is best for students.
- There is awareness that the Bellevue community is changing, and there is a desire for our schools to be prepared to meet the diverse needs of all students regardless of their zip code, race, abilities, or economic status.
- Bellevue has high expectations for its students and staff members.
- Publicly identify the many ways parents can be involved in our schools.
- Increase awareness and opportunities for community members, business personnel, and elected officials to support our students and schools.
- Learn more about how we are providing all students with rigorous learning opportunities to ensure that we have high expectations for all students.
- Create and share our plan for addressing growth and changing demographics.
The staff at Bellevue’s schools and district offices are high-quality and consistently demonstrate their dedication to student success. Dr. Duran met with teachers and other staff members. Our staff are overwhelmingly committed to ensuring success for all of our students and pride themselves on having positive relationships with students and with one another. There is a spirit of collaboration among professional associations that support our staff and a focus on providing opportunities for our educators to learn and grow on the job. Teachers and staff are eager for more opportunities to learn about and apply the district’s priorities to enhance their work with students. Teachers highlighted the need for professional development opportunities that allow teachers to improve their practice while respecting the time needed for such training.
- Bellevue staff – from teachers to support staff to leaders – are committed to doing their very best for all students in the diverse Bellevue community.
- Many pride themselves on having positive relationships among employee groups and with labor associations.
- There were many positive comments about the quality of professional development that is available. Staff are eager to continue learning and growing, such as earning national board certification.
- There is appreciation for the common curriculum and standards.
- Staff members want to know the top priorities in the district so they can focus their work.
- Explore existing professional development opportunities and learn how staff are accessing training that meets their needs within the scope of employee contracts with regard to time.
- Clarify priorities for staff and ensure central office teams are in alignment with the implementation and assessment of initiatives to ensure clarity for school staff.
- Continue to collaborate with employee groups and their representatives.
- Learn more about additional training and technology needs to ensure all staff are prepared to meet growing and changing student needs.
Equity & Access
Dr. Duran heard repeatedly about two things:
- The great pride staff, students, parents, and community members take in the Bellevue School District’s reputation for academic excellence.
- The wonderful asset that the district’s diversity is for enhancing learning for all students.
All participants recognized that the increased diversity of our student body is both a strength and a challenge for the district. Feedback centered on concern that the district ensure all students have the same opportunities for success, regardless of which neighborhood they live in or which school they attend. Parents, community members, and staff expressed a desire that the district maintain high expectations for all students and address the opportunity gaps that exist between our wealthiest and poorest students. Staff lauded the training they have received around equity and requested additional support from the district on how to support students from various racial and socioeconomic groups and students with diverse learning needs. This included discussions about professional learning for staff and refining work to eliminate opportunity gaps that create barriers to success for some students.
- There is a strong commitment to meet the needs of all students.
- Staff value the equity training they have received, and many would like to see it expanded to all employee groups.
- There is a demand for high expectations for all students.
- Some staff expressed the need to look beyond race to ensure staff are prepared to meet students with different economic backgrounds and learning abilities.
- Learn more about what “inclusion” means in our schools and share with staff members so they can best serve all students in a safe, inclusive, and rigorous environment.
- Expand opportunities to address challenges that staff members face so they feel supported and skilled to meet student needs.
- Learn more about how resources are allocated for higher-need schools and students.
- Create more opportunities for dialogue about our changing demographics and how to meet student and family needs.
All participants in the Listening & Learning Tour said again and again how proud they were to be part of the Bellevue School District community. However, Dr. Duran also overwhelmingly heard frustration that the district has not shared all of the wonderful things going on in our schools. Others expressed concern over a lack of clarity on the district’s priorities and how they were being implemented.
- Bellevue has a great story to tell, but there is a sense that we don’t always share it.
- Although many staff members value district leadership, there is concern that a lack of alignment may prevent a clear understanding of priorities.
- The Bellevue community may not fully understand the diverse needs of our students and why we are focusing on equity and inclusion.
- Bellevue does a good job of listening to the community.
- There is always room for more open and ongoing communication among stakeholders.
- Learn more about existing internal and external communication channels and how to expand them.
- Increase ongoing and consistent communication after all voices have been heard.
- Create more opportunities to hear from diverse students and families.
- Ensure stakeholders understand where we are going and how we are going to get there.
In today’s world, it is even more important to implement clear plans for how Bellevue is keeping students and staff safe. Participants want Bellevue to ensure:
- Personal safety for students through strong social emotional learning opportunities and curriculum choices that allow for diverse interests.
- Intellectual safety for students and staff so diverse ideas are welcomed and respected.
- Individual safety to be who you are.
Our Safety and Security team is reviewing current policies and procedures in order to develop a plan that addresses how we can enhance our efforts to keep students safe within our schools and community.
The district will launch strategic planning and alignment efforts this spring. This work will allow us to revisit the district’s mission, values, goals, and priorities. A steering committee made up of broad representation will begin the work and later in the process, a broader outreach to the community will provide the opportunity for feedback and input on the next strategic plan. This will be an exciting time to plan, align, and identify where we want Bellevue to be in the next 3-5 years.
We will also be releasing a survey at the end of April 2018 to provide a broader opportunity for community participation in our Strategic Planning process.
Once available, that survey will be posted on our Strategic Plan page.
Dr. Duran received feedback that students, parents, and community partners would like to play a more active role in informing the District’s work in a variety of areas. In response, we are creating opportunities for more authentic and ongoing community engagement. Some of the overarching goals for this work include:
- Open two-way conversation between the district and community members.
- Educate community members, where appropriate, about the parameters, current practices, pertinent data, and district work to date in each area of focus.
- Collect feedback, recommendations and input from community members.
- Make recommendations for improvement.
- Note areas of success and which practices should be continued.