Why the Viking Promise?
Closing equity gaps has been a focus of the Selah School District for the past three years. Specifically, the work has centered on closing our opportunity gap for the 51% of our students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. The focus was on this particular group because of our two other major gaps, English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities, over two-thirds of students in those populations also qualify for free and reduced lunch. In addition, a focus on poverty helped us learn more about the impacts of toxic stress on our students and began us down a path of learning how to better support this group of struggling learners. What we also learned that many of the strategies identified are beneficial for all students, regardless of their needs and abilities.
While the work done over the past three years has been informative, it hasn’t produced the system-wide results we would like to see when it comes to closing the opportunity gaps. In addition, over this period of time we’ve discovered that more and more of our students, from all walks of life, are dealing with trauma brought on by adverse childhood experiences and alarming levels of depression and anxiety. Feedback from staff and parents alike showed a mounting frustration with increased levels of behavioral outbursts from our students creating challenging learning environments, while input from our students told us a number of them were not engaged in their learning and ultimately didn’t feel connected to school.
As district leaders, what the last few years taught us was that we needed to think differently about how we approach educating today’s student. While high levels of learning is our core purpose, we realized that to accomplish this we would have to expand our understanding of the needs of our students and equip our schools with the tools to meet these varying needs. As we better understand now, academics are only a portion of what our kids need to be successful. And so, what was created from our learning and feedback was a whole-child approach to educating that we are calling, The Viking Promise.
The Viking Promise is the name of our strategic priorities in the Selah School District. Developed in the summer of 2019 following a multi-month input process, The Viking Promise will be used to guide the District’s work and focus over a five year period. It will serve as a “blueprint” for the administration to create annual work plans which include key initiatives, training and programs. It reflects the input of the Selah School District community on what it sees as the most essential educational priorities.
The goal of The Viking Promise is to meet the needs of the whole child by creating an EQUITY centered, ENGAGING and PERSONALIZED learning experiences in an emotionally and physically SAFE environment for each child in Selah.
The Viking Promise is comprised of seven pillars which, if implemented effectively and system-wide, will help us close the opportunity gaps that exist in our district. The seven pillars are as follows:
- Ensure student learning by creating Rigorous and Engaging Classrooms through growth producing relationships, lesson clarity and challenge to create learning environments where each child will thrive.
- Utilize Positive Behavioral Intervention & Supports with restorative practices for building community within our schools through a proactive response to student behavioral needs.
- Adopt a student-focused, Culturally Responsive Teaching approach that identifies and celebrates not only the differences between students but also the unique strengths of each child to encourage their academic achievement and a sense of belonging in the classroom.
- Provide systematic, evidence-based Social-Emotional Learning for every student to foster and equip them as scholars, community members and citizens.
- Implement Trauma Sensitive Practices so adults in the organization understand, recognize and respond to the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on our students, families and staff.
- Through our Together We Can Family and Community Engagement model, help provide the support and resources to build partnerships that meet the needs of every unique family dynamic.
- Enact a Future Ready approach to learning by utilizing technology and incorporating our Portrait of a Graduate vision into our program design and delivery.
Ensuring that all students succeed and are ready for the next phase of their lives is complex and challenging work. It can be taxing on the adults in the system who often have their own personal challenges in addition to having a great deal of empathy and care for their students. As a district we need to strengthen our sense of connectedness for everyone, students and staff alike, to create an environment where each person feels as though they matter and belong. We’re excited about the journey ahead, and appreciate the relationships with families and community as we all strive to ensure that The Viking Promise is fulfilled.