Kathy Morrison Community partnership key to positive school environment

Expect excellence!

Expect excellence!

It is the phrase we use to characterize the Mercer Island School District.  Excellence does not happen by accident. It takes effort, energy and engagement.

Key to an excellent education is an effective learning environment. As a school district, we work to engage our students. We have to both deliver instruction and deliver it in an accepting setting.

Our effective learning environment on Mercer Island is favored by a special community partnership. For many years, our school district, the city and private citizens, through the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Foundation, have worked together to provide our schools with counseling services and programs well beyond those afforded by basic education funding. Community gifts, in partnership with the district and city, are needed to keep these programs operating.

As the parent of four graduates of our district, a community volunteer, a teacher, a principal and now an associate superintendent, I have a long-standing appreciation of the necessary work done by our counselors and of the community support needed to maintain these essential programs.

Our community partnership assures we have one or more counselors at each of our schools. They are called upon to do far more than traditional academic, college prep or career counseling. They are an integral part of our teaching staffs (they have even been selected to receive “teacher of the year” awards) and have a major role in creating an effective learning environment in a variety of important ways. The MIYFS school counselors help build relationships that are physically and emotionally secure. They teach positive social skills, conflict management and problem solving techniques. They intervene, they assist, they prepare and they act as needed in the many situations that can interfere with learning: grief, divorce and separations, bullying, abuse, newcomers. They counsel, mediate, train and teach. Their classroom embraces not only our students, but our teachers, staff, volunteers and parents.

Counselors reach the front pages with a lockdown, a suicide, an auto or drug death, a 9/11 or a declaration of war. Each and every day, however, they run the programs that provide the learning environment our students need to succeed, such as Natural Helpers, Friends of Rachel, Mix it Up Day, Snowboard Outreach, Seeds of Compassion events and Peer Mediation, to name a few. Most importantly, they bring compassion, training and experience to bear on individual problems, whether student-student, student-teacher or teacher-parent. Solving one child’s problem improves the school environment for all.

The MIYFS Foundation is currently conducting its annual school fund drive, directed primarily to our school parents. I strongly urge their continuing support of these important programs. For the rest of our community partners, continue to attend and contribute to the MIYFS annual breakfast, donate in the Fall campaign, contribute to and patronize our thrift store, and give directly to the MIYFS Foundation as you can. Gifts may be sent to MIYFS at 2040 84th Ave. S.E., Mercer Island.

It is a community effort. It is a community partnership. It is important.

Thank you for not only expecting excellence, but supporting it!

Kathy Morrison is the Associate Superintendent of Instructional Services for the Mercer Island School District. She is the former principal of Island Park Elementary School.