Opinion

Sound off: Community help needed to change NWMS ‘system’

By Peter Hunt
Oak Harbor School Board

Three recent Whidbey News-Times pieces (an article; a letter written by a teacher; and a Sound Off authored by two parents) have raised issues regarding the quality of education offered at North Whidbey Middle School.  The district has been working to correct this for quite some time, and I would like to take this opportunity to offer some clarification to help our community form a more balanced understanding of the situation.

As the original Whidbey News-Times correctly pointed out, it is my belief that the system is not working effectively in North Whidbey Middle School.  The word “system” carries specific importance in understanding the nature of the problem; it is unlikely that there is a single and obvious cause waiting for a silver bullet. The school board was briefed about the issues at North Whidbey Middle School at the beginning of the school year, and the superintendent and assistant superintendent have been actively involved in the North Whidbey Middle School improvement process since that time.

It is difficult to consolidate the events of a school board meeting that lasted almost three hours into an 850-word article, and understandably not all that occurred at the meeting was passed on to the readers. Please allow me to relate additional statements made by me at the meeting, but not reported.

My son, who attends North Whidbey Middle School, is being challenged and educated by excellent teachers and we are very pleased with his academic progress. My further comments included praise for several recent North Whidbey events that I attended that successfully engaged both parents and children, and the singling out of the two North Whidbey Middle School teachers present at the meeting for the superior work that I have personally witnessed.

None of this mitigates the seriousness of the problem, but my examples were used to clearly separate individuals from the “system” to assist in identifying with precision the fundamental causes. In the meantime, the central administration continues to actively monitor — and guide when necessary — the changes already implemented by North Whidbey leadership.  It is my expectation that an updated and fully vetted plan with action well under way will be in place before the start of this next school year (state test results are published in August).

The Oak Harbor School District is in the third year of actively promoting a culture of high expectations and academic excellence. It is extremely difficult, slow work, none of us are satisfied with the progress, and no excuses are acceptable.

We welcome and strongly encourage the suggestions and, most importantly, the participation of parents, teachers, and the community. Ultimate responsibility is clearly ours on the school board, but the work needed to be successful comes from the community as a whole.

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