Woodland Public Schools to reconfigure elementary schools to create consistent student expectations and culture

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Starting this fall, Woodland Public Schools will reconfigure two of its elementary schools, the Woodland Primary School and Woodland Intermediate School, to create a consistent and cohesive culture of expectations for K-4 students in the district.

The new elementary administrative team - Lynell Tsugawa-Murray, Steve Carney and Malinda Huddleston
The new elementary administrative team - Lynell Tsugawa-Murray, Steve Carney and Malinda Huddleston

Previously, two separate principals managed the administrative duties at Woodland Primary School (grades K-1) and Woodland Intermediate School (grades 2-4). Starting this fall, Steve Carney will serve as the Principal of both schools with two supporting Associate Administrators, Malinda Huddleston and Lynnell Tsugawa-Murray. The goal of the new administrative team will be to create a singular culture of expectations for both students and staff throughout grades K-4. "We're looking forward to building a culture that creates a laser-like focus on learning with adults who believe all students can learn at all levels," said Carney. "We intend to create a single culture across both buildings with consistency in the classrooms, curriculum and instruction, especially regarding the level of rigor expected of our students."

To develop that singular vision, the entire staffs of both schools including teachers, administrative support, custodians and cooks will attend an all-day planning meeting prior to the start of the school year. Together, the teams from both schools will develop expectations for the 700 K-4 students. "My philosophy toward student learning revolves around my belief in my staff; I believe them into brilliance," said Carney. "If I believe my staff can be brilliant, they will be, and my actions will align with those beliefs."

During the planning meeting, staff members will begin the day in small groups, brainstorming their own beliefs of their professions. The groups write their beliefs on a large board for the entire two-school team to review. "If there are discrepancies, this process will help us address those discrepancies and develop solutions we can all agree on," explained Carney. "The result of the day will be a single vision of what we want to achieve and a commitment to one another with every staff member dedicated to the belief structure we have created together."

In addition to both schools working together with a common set of expectations and accountability for each other, the consistent culture will help younger students who transition from Woodland Primary School in first grade to Woodland Intermediate School in second grade. "The transition from first grade at one building to second grade at an entirely new building can be challenging for younger students," said Carney. "We want to eliminate that difficulty by maintaining consistent thoughts on culture, climate, belief systems and values for all K-4 students."

Instead of staying in offices at their schools, the elementary administrative team will focus on student issues by regularly visiting classrooms at both schools throughout the school week. "We'll be in classrooms at least three days out of each week," said Carney. "This way, when student issues arise, the support for the student can be right there in the classroom instead of students needing to 'go to the Principal's Office.'"

Carney served as the principal of Woodland Primary School for the 2014-15 school year and also serves as the President of Learning Forward Washington, an organization dedicated to improving professional learning for educators. Carney started implementing many of his ideas at Woodland Primary School last year, and news has spread throughout the teaching community. "We hired 14 new teachers this year, and even during interviews the teachers were aware of the big changes that we made at Woodland Primary School last year and were excited to hear what we're planning for the new school year," said Tsugawa-Murray.

"We're all excited about learning and growing together as a team," said Huddleston. "We're looking forward to creating a seamless K-4 system for students to watch them grow, develop and have confidence in knowing that expectations won't change for them when they change buildings."