Looking to the New Year is always a time of reflection. In a few more days we will turn the corner to the winter solstice where more daylight will slowly begin to return.
With my time in Whitefish ending next June, our Board of Trustees now moves into the most important decision they will make this year, with the selection of a new Superintendent. I’m grateful for the work the staff, board, and community are doing together to support our schools as the board moves through this process.
So far this school year, the staff and board have done tremendous work in the implementation of our annual district strategies, seeking continuous improvement and building on our past work so each student will improve academically each year.
We continue to refine our curriculum and are using data to drive these improvements. In January, the board will look at our annual district profile that includes data on how our schools are performing and will identify new priorities to move the district forward. One of the focus areas will be in math instructional materials to help students better understand the complexities of learning in this area.
The creation of “Professional Learning Communities” was one of our top priorities for this year. The collaboration time on our early release days has created more opportunity for our teachers to work together to support student learning and make important instructional decisions for our students.
Implementing a core social and emotional learning curriculum has also been a major priority, helping our students in areas of behavior, compassion and kindness, as well as anger and anxiety reduction. We have been focused on this important area of learning to ensure a caring culture in our schools, providing a deeper foundation for developing responsible citizens. A restorative justice model is an additional, critical part of our growth in creating safe and welcoming schools and one of our top priorities. Rather than “punitive discipline” we seek “restorative practices” where students learn from mistakes by making “right” on their wrongdoing ... taking responsibility and rebuilding relationships. Our training with administrators, teachers, staff, and student leaders will continue to enhance our school and community culture in 2020.
As we look to winter break, please take a few moments to remember the importance of family, belonging, and community. The divisions in our society may be great at this point in our history, but each day is an opportunity to be the people, educators, parents, community members, and school system we want to be. As adults and older students in the Whitefish Schools community, we model the behaviors and attitudes that our students see and learn from each day.
On this upcoming break, I hope you are able to spend time with your loved ones, get outdoors, and enjoy each other’s company. Take advantage of that togetherness and remember how fortunate we are to live in a community like Whitefish. With some rest, relaxation, and a brief step away from the pressures of school, we’ll come back re-charged for the New Year. I look forward to seeing all of you in 2020!
Heather Davis Schmidt is the Superintendent of Whitefish School District.