Cafe participants help district with 5-yr goals

Cafe participants help district with 5-yr goals
Posted on 02/23/2021
Graphic showing themes and ideas shared during the cafe meeting
*This is a draft of a piece created by a graphic artist, meant to represent some of the themes, bold ideas and goals that students, families, staff and community members shared during the virtual cafe. Several adjustments may be made before the draft will be finalized.

About 170 students, guardians, staff and community members gathered virtually earlier this month for the 2025 Cafe, to talk about the district’s goals for the next five years.

“This is a special evening,” School Board President Katrina Montgomery said. “Tonight, we will gaze into the future and begin talking about how we can sharpen our focus to guide and support our students. Our work will help shape the school district’s mission over the next five years and beyond.”

Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Dawn Wakeley asked participants to think not just big, but to shoot for the moon in support of Tahoma students. At the opening of the meeting, attendees watched this video about “Moonshot thinking,” as inspiration. “As we think about what we want to accomplish for our system … we want to think boldly tonight,” Wakeley said.

The evening’s conversations centered around the four areas most important for student success and most in need of improvement, as identified by Tahoma students, families, staff and community members during a survey at the end of 2020. Those areas are:

• Mental health support for students;
• Student & staff experiences regarding cultural understanding, diversity and equity;
• School climate and culture to build healthy relationships and effective collaboration and partnership;
• High expectations for student growth and academic success.

When signing up to attend, each person identified which of those four areas was their first area of interest. After the introduction, the cafe attendees headed to Zoom breakout rooms for the topic of their choice, where they discussed “What’s the future that we want to create” for Tahoma students, and, in order to get there, what should the district hold onto, and what should be changed.

In the mental health breakout rooms, participants talked about:
• Continuing to break the stigma around mental health, and helping students learn to recognize warning signs.
• Partnering with other organizations to increase the therapy resources available to students and families.
• Universal developmentally appropriate preschool that is play-based with focused emotion management.
• Continuing education about healthy coping skills for negative emotions; life skills; how to recognize depression, anxiety, bullying, unhealthy coping skills.
• More connections for kids.
• Increasing training for staff, such as requiring all staff to be “Safe Space” certified, and more counseling support at the elementary level.

In the equity breakout rooms, participants talked about:
• Amplifying student voices and giving them an ongoing space to be comfortable sharing their stories. Follow up with action when needed.
• Increasing representation from many ethnicities, races and cultures in student leadership and staff positions and leadership roles.
• Eliminating the opportunity gap.
• More training in equity for staff.
• Equity as a norm that students and staff are practicing consistently, not just periodically.
• Curriculum that reflects diverse cultures.
• Translators, interpreters and other services that help our students and families receive information and participate.
• Celebrating learning about diversity throughout the year, in a way that also helps ingrain that celebration into the culture of Tahoma.

In the climate and culture breakout rooms, participants talked about:
• How to build a positive culture not just inside the district, but through partnering with the city and larger community.
• The need to continue to work to eliminate bullying and discrimination.
• Continuing to foster connections and strong relationships with teachers and staff members.
• How our schools could be a unifying factor in a community that is sometimes divided by politics, growth and other factors.
• Using restorative practices.
• How to help all students and families feel welcome and supported.
• Increasing support at transitions from elementary to middle school, and from middle school to high school.

In the high expectations for student growth and academic success breakout room, participants discussed:
• Continuing to advance technology and staying current.
• Flexibility for students in multiple ways: could students graduate with a two-year degree? Could Tahoma offer an Alternative Learning Experience?
• How can Tahoma improve its college retention rate?
• Evidence-based decisions
• Additional differentiation to meet specific needs of each child.
• Offering additional options at elementary, such as band, orchestra and languages.
• Considering what is important for high expectations for all groups and levels of students.
• More partnerships with local industry or big companies.
• Added visibility of all the possible goals and pathways for students throughout the system.

The ideas, strategies and thoughts shared at the cafe will be used to refine the district’s goals and targets for the next five years. The Board and administrators may decide to host additional focus groups, listening sessions, topic-specific cafe meetings or other strategies as part of the process.
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