Regarding the new academic year

Welcome back to a new school year. We're beginning our second school year together and I want to thank you for your support and partnership with us on behalf of the children we serve. During my first year, I confirmed my belief that we enjoy an outstanding school system that continues to improve and excel. The credit for Lake Washington success is shared between parents who are an integral part of our public schools and our dedicated faculty and staff. I'm pleased by what I've seen and what we've accomplished together.

Over the course of my professional life, I've believed that the strength and character of the school, home and community connection is critical in ensuring that all children receive a quality education and learn and achieve at high levels. When high quality classroom teaching is combined with strong school and parent partnership the result is student success and well-being. Our teachers are the lynchpin for academic progress and, as a school system, we are "working on the work" of developing engaging and relevant lessons for all children.


While high quality instruction is critical to student growth, parents' behavior is equally important. We all know that, ultimately, parents are the most important teachers of all. Your enthusiasm and respect for learning, your reinforcement of the importance of good attendance, punctuality and a strong work ethic; your modeling of the kinds of behaviors you want your child to exhibit are all essential elements of our partnership.

For all of these reasons, communication between home and school is a paramount key to student success.

Any weakening of confidence and understanding between home and school is dangerous and counterproductive for children. It is important that parents receive timely information from the school. It is important that parents are made aware of and understand the expectations the teacher and the school have for your child. It is important that parents monitor homework and performance and contact the teacher when there are concerns.

Please stay informed by attending Back to School Nights, PTA meetings, parent-teacher conferences; by reading school newsletters, and visiting your school's Web site. It goes without saying that the workload and expectations we have for both teachers and parents is sometimes overwhelming, but the success of children serves as a more than adequate incentive for that effort.

We've done an outstanding job together over the years. However, we share further challenges as we head into the year. The No Child Left Behind Act sets high standards for all schools across this nation. Even though we recognize the weaknesses and contradictions of this law, we are working hard to get all students up to standard and beyond.

There is evidence of significant progress toward that goal. The Lake Washington School District ranked number 1in WASL 10th-grade reading, 10th-grade math, seventh grade reading and 4th grade math scores when compared to the 10 districts of similar size. We ranked number 2 in WASL 7th grade math and fourth grade reading scores when compared to districts of similar size. Among the 10 districts with similar enrollment, LWSD was clearly first, and many of our individual schools rank at or near the top among all Washington schools.

Although that level of success is noteworthy, I'm more impressed by the fact that we display continued growth in the numbers of our students whose performance matches Washington's high academic standards. We should all bear in mind that the toughest challenges in a the standards-based, high stakes testing environment, often land on the shoulders of teachers and parents in the highest performing districts. While I'm confident that we're capable of improving student performance in many areas, it will be interesting to watch as the implications and consequences of NCLB unfold.

Rebuilding schools

As the door opened for the first day of school, many students in Lake Washington School District entered brand new facilities. The district rebuilt three schools in order to better suit the technological and learning needs of our students and their teachers, including Thoreau Elementary School in Kirkland.

These buildings were created as a part of a long-term strategic plan for the modernization of Lake Washington School District schools. The next step in the modernization of schools in Lake Washington School District is underway at Kirkland Junior High. Demolition of the old building is complete and fieldwork has already begun. Design work is completed at both Franklin and Juanita, and Rose Hill elementary will begin the modernization process this year.

As many of you know, all Lake Washington students will be required to complete and pass a culminating project in order to graduate in 2005. High schools have been working to develop a plan and timeline to help students meet the standards for the culminating project. In fact, this year all of our high schools will be piloting the culminating project.

Students also will be required to demonstrate proficiency in communication standards. Through a number of projects and venues they will apply their knowledge and skills in writing, reading and speech. These requirements and related instructional and evaluation planning represent what I consider to be a nation-leading, worthwhile and extremely challenging effort for students, faculty and leadership staff.

The district needs parents to be a partner in these endeavors. In fact, it can't be done without you. Each day we are helping our children create their future. Through staff commitment, student focus, parent involvement, community caring and partner support, we can ensure success for all. Thank you for all you do to support your child(ren)'s learning and your schools.

Please have an enjoyable and productive year. I know we'll see each other along the way.

Dr. Don Saul is the superintendent of the Lake Washington School District.[[In-content Ad]]