Let’s discuss: NSD history (some good, some bad, the trajectory)

Ken Smith - Reporter file photo

Many folks move to Kenmore, Bothell and Woodinville for the great schools. The Northshore School District (NSD) has a rich history with a share of ups and downs, especially the past four years. With four of five school board seats up for election, it’s a perfect time to review three “chapters” in our recent history.

Chapter 1 — NSD on Facebook: Our ‘Arab Spring’

Social media today is a turbulent mix, especially when used by activists seeking government change. Massive change is possible when a movement goes viral and the community gets organized. Since 2015 we’ve had a great resource in the NSD Discussion Group on Facebook. Check it out — more than 3,300 people are there.

Chapter 2 — Bumps along the way: Sleep health, racism, land, audit findings

While NSD has many amazing things, we sometimes forget the difficulties in our past. We need to remind ourselves that after 10 years of advocacy, our start times miss the national health standards by nearly an hour. We have new policies and practices for equity, but we stumbled publicly after black students in our district received racist threats in 2015. We’ve encountered controversy and litigation with land purchasing and leasing efforts. And the August 2015 audit findings relating to violating code of ethics and open meetings were a particularly low point.

Some of these bumps happen to any large organization. Yet they do seem more prevalent in organizations with a poor “tone at the top.”

Chapter 3 — Leadership changes: Listening to all voices

Successful organizations and thriving communities require the delicate coordination of many elements. Before the NSD Facebook page, many parents found the former superintendent and former board president to be more defensive and dismissive than expected. I’ve worked with government organizations since the early 1990s and the stonewalling and avoidance of true conversations was disheartening.

As events unfolded through 2015, it became clear to those on social media that our experiences were not isolated and a change was needed. The election just two years ago was vibrant with a total of five candidates seeking two seats. Thankfully, the voters agreed to a change in tone in November 2015 with the election of two new school board members. There is a new board president and a new superintendent, both of whom exemplify the virtues of listening to all voices in the community. The new board has been widely praised for their collegiality, commitment to listening and an overall change in the way the entire board interacts with each other.

Next chapter — New board members: Our trajectory is?

We don’t yet know all the board candidates, but we need to before we decide who to trust with being our elected representatives. As we’ve seen nationally, it really matters WHO we elect. Perhaps more important, however, is HOW we go about elections. I’m an eternal optimist and continue to believe that transparency is key. If we all have timely and useful information, I’m convinced that “working together makes things better.”

Please get involved if you have not and stay involved if you already are. We are a strong and thoughtful community here in NSD — let’s keep discussing.

Ken Smith,


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