Guest Opinion: A conversation on schools and our community

  • Wednesday, December 7, 2016 1:30am
  • Opinion

How can we support and promote our schools? What have we done — and what can we do — to recognize and show appreciation for the remarkable teachers and staff who instruct, guide, watch over and inspire our children?

How can we improve the connection between our schools and the large part of our community who don’t have children in school and, consequently, aren’t really involved with what happens in or to our schools?

What can we do to encourage more engagement between the schools and the community as a whole?

These were the key questions addressed during the most recent “Conversation on Our Community” on Nov. 15. More than 40 people attended, all contributing to a lively, informative discussion, generating lots of ideas and developing a list of specific things to do over the next few months to find the answers to these questions.

What have we done in the past to support and promote our schools — specifically in terms of recognizing and appreciating the remarkable teachers and staff in the district?

This was our starting point simply because we all agreed there was no point in “reinventing the wheel” or duplicating efforts already underway.

And there are some great projects individuals already have started! For example, some 20 people have gotten together to provide teachers at Helen Haller Elementary School with classroom supplies that they either don’t have or need more of.

It’s like sending a “care package” to a teacher. This same group also provides volunteer support in the classroom. The person who started this project is someone who, while she doesn’t have any children attending Helen Haller, wanted to let the teachers know how much the community appreciated them.

She also saw it as a way to deepen the connection between the school and the wider community.

Others recounted things that had been done previously but in many cases had simply faded away or been discontinued.

What can we do now?

The Helen Haller example seemed to strike a chord and a lot of ideas and proposals started coming out and being discussed:

• Extend the concept of providing teacher “care packages” to the other schools in the district — first by networking to identify the needs and how best to fill them.

• Volunteer to assist existing Parent Teacher Organizations (PTOs) and Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) in the district and help establish one for Sequim High School. Re-think the concept of the PTO/PTA and transform it into a “CTO” — a Community Teacher Organization.

• Create a program for recognizing teachers and staff — publicizing their contributions to the district and, by extension, to the community regularly; hold ceremonies (big or small) to celebrate their accomplishments and the role they play in our community.

• Work with the district to bring more people to the schools as visitors and volunteers; get community organizations to collaborate more effectively so as to enhance their impact on the schools and underscore the community’s commitment to educational quality.

• Find ways to more effectively coordinate efforts that would enable the schools to tap into the tremendous intellectual resources available throughout the community and foster greater engagement by those eager and willing to help even though they don’t have kids attending the schools or never did.

• Hold “spontaneous” rallies to show support for faculty and staff such as a “tunnel of fans” welcoming teachers and staff at the start of the school day.

• A “Volunteers to Help Volunteers” program.

• A “Seniors for Sequim Schools” program.

• Various approaches to broadcasting the stories of our remarkable teachers and staff, as well as the importance of our schools in our community.

• Getting more parents registered to vote and to understand the importance of their voice in the future of their kids’ schools.

Before the conversation ended, a number of people agreed to lead one or more efforts to move these ideas from discussion to reality, through focused workshops coordinated through CommunityPlus.

The theme connecting all of these ideas — and that formed the bond uniting and energizing all those participating in the conversation — was simple and foundational: We have a school district that needs and very much deserves support from the entire community.

As one person put it so perfectly: “These are our schools, whether you’re young, old, rich, poor. If we think of the community as a wheel, then the schools are the hub; as our schools go, so goes the rest of the community.”

There is a lot we can do. And we can have a lot of fun doing it!

Let’s join in a community-wide effort to support and promote our schools. It’s a great way to show your love of Sequim!

To enlist in this eminently worthy cause, just check our website at sequimcommunityplus.com or our Facebook page. If you have questions, you can submit those on either or simply call Ken Stringer (360-422-3776) for more information.

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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
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