Community letter from SJISD School Superintendent Fred Woods

Posted September 25, 2020 at 5:45 am by

Fred Woods - Contributed photo

Dear Fri­day Har­bor community,

I have always loved the month of Sep­tem­ber. Many years ago, when I decid­ed to make edu­ca­tion a life-long career I saw an oppor­tu­ni­ty to broad­en my world, allow­ing me to extend beyond the lim­its of the lit­tle town where I was raised. Choos­ing edu­ca­tion as a career even­tu­al­ly led me to Fri­day Har­bor, mak­ing it the best deci­sion I ever made!

I stepped into this new role of Super­in­ten­dent in the mid­dle of a glob­al cri­sis. Though the posi­tion is new to me, the work­ing con­di­tions are famil­iar hav­ing spent the last the 13 years serv­ing this com­mu­ni­ty as a prin­ci­pal. Mar­tin Yablonovsky, our new sec­ondary cam­pus prin­ci­pal, joined us at the end of June and imme­di­ate­ly got right to work. Martin’s expe­ri­ence and thought­ful approach is exact­ly what we need to help guide us.

For me, each Sep­tem­ber means I start the annu­al school cycle again, with new and return­ing stu­dents. I look for­ward to expe­ri­enc­ing the excite­ment of the pos­si­bil­i­ties that lie ahead for each child. This year, much like every year, stu­dents and teach­ers returned refreshed and ready. As always, there is an eager­ness to get­ting back to the class­room, see­ing friends, and con­tin­u­ing an edu­ca­tion­al jour­ney. How­ev­er, the park­ing lots are emp­ty. There are no ath­let­ic con­tests or Fri­day night lights. The hus­tle and bus­tle of what we have come to view as nor­mal is just not there. Life is dif­fer­ent. This pan­dem­ic has forced all of us to live in a man­ner to which we are not accus­tomed. How­ev­er, the show must go on. For school, that means we must do our best to pro­vide a qual­i­ty learn­ing expe­ri­ence with­in the frame­work of our cur­rent real­i­ty. So we returned to school this year in a remote learn­ing mod­el. Online engage­ment will nev­er replace in-per­son edu­ca­tion, but our pro­grams this fall are great­ly improved from last spring’s emer­gency closure.

Last spring, the Dis­trict piv­ot­ed quick­ly to an online teleschool­ing mod­el to con­tin­ue to serve our stu­dents dur­ing a cri­sis. Though the whole state was sud­den­ly forced into remote learn­ing, oth­er dis­tricts floun­dered and we hit the ground run­ning. Fri­day Har­bor schools excelled. The results of the AP exams tak­en in the spring are hard evi­dence of this. One hun­dred per­cent of our Art and Com­put­er Sci­ence Prin­ci­ples stu­dents passed the exam. Six­ty-two per­cent of our Cal­cu­lus stu­dents reached the mark, four stu­dents scor­ing a lev­el 5, the high­est pos­si­ble score. Oth­er AP offer­ings such as AP His­to­ry, AP Eng­lish, and AP Sci­ence also saw great suc­cess. All this was accom­plished while we were unable to meet with stu­dents direct­ly. That says some­thing about our com­mu­ni­ty, the stu­dents, and the ded­i­ca­tion of the staff.

I know the ques­tion on everyone’s mind is “When will we return to an in-per­son mod­el?” Sim­ply put, when it is safe to do so. Local super­in­ten­dents meet with the coun­ty health depart­ment week­ly. Our Board of Direc­tors adopt­ed our reopen­ing plans in August with the under­stand­ing that we would review every nine weeks. Com­mit­tees are cur­rent­ly meet­ing to dis­cuss and plan re-open­ing. There is a lot con­sid­er, but I want you to know that we are work­ing hard to sup­port the island families.

For now, teach­ers are using the train­ing they have received to cre­ate the most mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ence pos­si­ble for the chil­dren of this island. I under­stand it is dif­fi­cult for many, but our goal is to engage stu­dents the best we can in a vir­tu­al world. Along with the improve­ment to teleschool­ing, we reimag­ined and re-launched Grif­fin Bay School, designed for fam­i­lies who need sched­ule flexibility.

This Sep­tem­ber was as “dif­fer­ent” for us as it was for every­one else across the state and through­out the nation. We are resilient, though. We will get through this. And life as we once knew it will return. Build­ings will be full of stu­dents, Fri­day night lights will blaze, and schools will cre­ate com­mu­ni­ty. When we do return to in-per­son learn­ing, we will have gained much expe­ri­ence. What will we have learned from adapt­ing to this cri­sis? What new prac­tices will we car­ry for­ward? If we find our­selves in anoth­er com­mu­ni­ty cri­sis, how can we improve our response?

As Win­ston Churchill once stat­ed, and I para­phrase, we should nev­er let a cri­sis go to waste. We can come out bet­ter than we were before. That is my hope and my goal.

Fred Woods
San Juan Island School District

You can support the San Juan Update by doing business with our loyal advertisers, and by making a one-time contribution or a recurring donation.

Categories: Education, People, Schools

No comments yet. Be the first!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By submitting a comment you grant the San Juan Update a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate, irrelevant and contentious comments may not be published at an admin's discretion. Your email is used for verification purposes only, it will never be shared.

Receive new post updates: Entries (RSS)
Receive followup comments updates: RSS 2.0