Sumner School District administrators are happy with being ranked 36th out of 295 school districts in the state, but they also say they can do better.
Superintendent Sara Johnson and her teaching and learning staff have set a goal for the district to be in the top five by spring 2018. That means the district plans to pass up six school districts each year during the next five years starting this fall, Johnson said.
“We will be in the commuter lane, and we will have the throttle all the way to the floor,” she said. “It will take a lot of hard work, but we think it’s worth it. We want kids who leave Sumner School District to be the best educated in Washington.”
John Hellwich, an academic officer part of the teaching and learning team, said the pieces are in place for the district to reach that goal.
“We have supportive staff, strong teachers and strong principals,” Hellwich said.
Laurie Dent, the former principal of Liberty Ridge Elementary, said she’s confident teachers will embrace the goal and want to achieve greatness.
“Success is contagious,” Dent said, paraphrasing a concept from the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. “It can spread like wildfire.”
Johnson said there is enough research on the practice to know what to do to have a top performing system.
“But there is a gap between the knowing and the doing,” she said. “We’re going to move from a school district that knows how to do it to a school district that carries out all the practices that will make it exceptional.”
Johnson said the district plans to implement every practice across the system, and to do so with top quality.
“We will monitor teachers and coach them and train them and provide the resources they need,” Johnson said. “We will monitor and coach principals.”
She added she will “take out all the things that have a low impact on progress.”
It’s a process she called “weeding the garden.”
“We cannot afford to waste any resources,” Johnson said. “Our goals are too high.”
When Johnson was hired July 1, the school board included $4,000 in her contract to support her professional development training. Johnson instead opted out of the clause and applied it toward hiring Larry Nyland, an academic consultant at the University of Washington’s Center for Educational Leadership.
Nyland, the past superintendent of the Marysville School District and a past Washington Superintendent of the Year recipient, will visit the Sumner School District 18 times during the 2013-14 academic year to help Johnson and her team with strategy and techniques required to be ranked in the top five statewide.
Erin LaVerdiere, an educator with the Sumner School District for 25 years who now is the executive director of teaching and learning, said the district is blessed with great students, teachers and principals.
“Our kids deserve this,” LaVerdiere said. “There is no reason we can’t be in the top five.”Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.