Superintendent Quinn Asks Ferndale Staff to Focus on Relationships

Ferndale School District Logo

[Ferndale, Wash.] The Ferndale School District has a staff of nearly 700 employees with diverse roles, responsibilities and work schedules. The entire staff is gathering together on Tuesday, September 3rd for an all-district breakfast meeting ahead of the 2019-2020 school year.

Bringing all employees together at one time is no easy task and not something that happens often. All Ferndale School District buildings will open to the public at 10 am on Tuesday, September 3rd to allow for employees attend the meeting in the morning.

Dr. Quinn talks about why she called a meeting this year, “This is one of our busiest times of year. I am asking our employees to take a pause and come together because we want to begin this year with a re-prioritization of what is truly important – relationships. By that I mean relationships with students, each other and our community. We are labeling this emphasis FerndaleCARES.”

FerndaleCARES is our new way of talking about the mission of the Ferndale School District, which in 2019 is bigger and broader than teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Our goal is to work with families, businesses and members of the community to help every child and young person entrusted to our care develop into well-rounded, well-prepared, productive adults. To do so, we are renewing our emphasis on Character, Citizenship, and Career-focused learning.

As part of FerndaleCARES, we will be joining school districts across the United States to increase our focus on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), social and emotional learning is, “The way that children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

In Ferndale, several substantive changes are part of FerndaleCARES:

At the elementary and middle levels, classroom teachers will be teaching the Second Step curriculum to every K-8 student. Second Step, which has been in our district in some places for several years, is a program aimed at creating a more empathetic and safe society by teaching students social and emotional concepts and skills.

At the high school level, we will be increasing our focus on teaching positive character traits, encouraging civic involvement, and ensuring each high school student is connected to a caring adult both inside the school and also beyond it. Regarding the latter, the community is helping us with partnerships like the Be the One mentorship program that pairs individual students with adult mentors and Lunch with Leaders that connects high school students with business and industry leaders to talk about job skills, job shadows and potential employment.

For all of our students, we are increasing our investment in counselors and other support personnel. The Ferndale School District doubled down on its investment in counselors over the past two years and will continue this investment in the 2019-2020 school year with eleven counselors serving our ten schools.

For our teachers, we are reminding that academic test scores represent only a fraction of what students need to be successful. We are giving them explicit permission to spend more time on building healthy relationships.

For all of our staff, we are making a concerted effort to include every employee group in this work and to honor the contributions that they make and the influence they have. We are also encouraging all of our staff to take care of themselves, and to help them do so we are making plans to bring back a wellness program for our employees.

“Much of this work is already happening in our schools because of our wonderful staff. We know that,” said Dr. Quinn. “What we want to do as we begin the 2019-2020 school year is double our efforts and also bring them all under one umbrella. We want to name this work and agree on it together. If we only prepare students for academic success, we are sending them into the world on a bicycle with air in only one tire. It just isn’t enough. FerndaleCARES fills both tires and sends a strong message to staff that we support efforts to spend time in classrooms, on school buses, in the lunchroom, and wherever they work focused on what matters most – building strong, positive relationships with students and helping students build such relationships with each other and their community.”