New Mercer Island School District (MISD) Superintendent Fred Rundle reached out to the school community by penning a letter at the start of August to discuss ensuring safe and supportive learning environments.
The new school year will kick off on Aug. 31 for students in grades 1-12 and Rundle wanted to open the lines of communication early to produce a smooth start when the buildings open for classes. Kindergartners will jump into their learning experience less than a week later on Sept. 6.
“I am humbled and honored to serve as your new superintendent of schools. Together, we will improve upon our systems to promote sustainability, invest in our schools and staff to elevate our potential, and commit to our students and their long-term ability to thrive,” said Rundle, adding that as the opening dates near, the district will email vital information to parents and post messages on the district’s social media platforms and websites.
In addressing school safety on the physical, social and emotional levels, Rundle said that 80% of the district’s fourth- through 12th-graders reported feeling safe at school and 90% of K-12 parents reported that their children feel safe at school in the most recent Education Effectiveness Survey.
MISD maintains critical partnerships with the Mercer Island Police Department and Mercer Island Youth and Family Services and features the Youth Concerns Committee and Healthy Youth Initiative in its array of resources. Also, middle school and high school students have around-the-clock access to the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System; the Sandy Hook Promise program focuses on school safety and culture improvements for kids, parents and teachers.
Volunteers and visitors must check-in at a secure vestibule at the main entrance of each school, said Rundle, who added: “In partnership with the Mercer Island Police Department, our administrators will be participating in updated school safety training and taking our entire staff through new and refresher training this fall. We focused heavily on COVID mitigation and safety for the past two years, and with good reason. However, we need to reinvest time and attention to other safety measures.”
Some of those measures are active shooter and lockdowns, earthquake preparedness, shelter in place, fire drills, evacuations and reunification. On classroom lockdowns, Rundle said the schools now feature magnetic safety locks for classroom doors; the magnets generate a color-coded display to alert first responders on classrooms’ safety needs.
Information regarding COVID-19 guidelines will be forthcoming from the Washington state and King County departments of health, Rundle said. MISD has applied for a grant to increase staffing in its health rooms, as well.
“These positions will support testing, communication, classroom outbreak monitoring, and allow our nurses to tend to all aspects of student health and not just COVID,” Rundle said.
* The district recently welcomed Matt Sullivan on board as its new executive director of finance and operations.
Sporting a proactive communication style, Sullivan, who will join the district on Sept. 6, listed his key traits as transparency, team building and understanding the “bottom line.”
For the last eight years with the Vashon School District, Sullivan supervised and managed the entire scope of the non-academic operations of the district’s departments. He was deeply involved in accounts payable/receivable, accounting, contracting, budgeting, legal, insurance-risk management and more.
* With student and driver safety a priority, the MISD gave a congratulatory nod to transportation lot mechanic Tim Taylor for successfully maintaining its buses and earning recognition the last two years from the Office of Superintendent Public Instruction and the Washington State Patrol.