Inspiration and energy heading into a new school year

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The new school year begins today. It’s an exciting time for our students, teachers and staff to build fresh relationships as we seek meaningful learning opportunities in a quickly changing world.

For me, it really all comes down to relationships. The kinds of relationships we establish and how we interact with each other are so important. From the bus driver, to our food service, from our coaches, staff, and teachers, to the principal — so much depends on how we choose to interact with our students and one another.

Last week I spent time with our staff and teachers in professional development sessions, looking at the subject of grades and how we communicate academic progress with students and families. We’ve come out of these sessions with a lot of good energy as we seek to give the most effective feedback on monitoring student progress. It’s been an inspiring learning experience in preparation for the new school year.

Over the past several weeks we have been faced with the challenge of significant, unexpected enrollment increases in kindergarten and first grade. We added an eighth first grade class and an eighth kindergarten class less than two weeks ago. Eight new kindergarteners enrolled in less than 36 hours — only days ago.

Last week we were also greeted with a significant leak in the hot water recirculation line under the front office at Muldown. Our incredible maintenance staff will continue to keep our aging elementary school running, including clearing the roof with snow blowers this winter to mitigate structural problems.

As you consider our needs and the upcoming bond vote, please keep in mind these issues of overcrowding and the serious infrastructure problems at Muldown. Our task force met for over a year and ultimately felt the most fiscally responsible choice was to build a new school and not kick the problems down the road to exponentially rising costs. The cost of waiting is too much.

Beyond the brick and mortar, as we welcome new families and students to Whitefish Schools, I’d like to reiterate what we believe in. We are a welcoming environment that embraces students of all backgrounds and circumstances. We have a safe and inclusive environment based on mutual respect. Compassion, open-mindedness, acceptance, and kindness are values we hold in the highest regard. Discrimination of any form is never tolerated.

My inspiration for working in Whitefish Schools comes from my passion and absolute belief that public schools are the foundation of a good democracy. I feel a responsibility for future generations and I want to ensure that our educational system is effective and meaningful for our students who will one day be charged with tackling global challenges. That obligation might sound big — but in reality we all have that responsibility.

I get my energy from the educators, staff and community members who share this passion. It’s a joy to be working side by side with many talented educators to create the best possible outcomes we can for our kids.

In light of all the challenges we face, it’s important to remember how fortunate we are to be living in the vibrant, small town of Whitefish, Montana, surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. I enter this new school year focused on the positive energy we can help create in people’s lives and the potential for a great future.

Dr. Heather Davis Schmidt is the Superintendent of the Whitefish School District.

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