As we begin the 2014-15 school year, I want to express that after a year in the position, it is indeed my privilege and good fortune to serve Deer Park Schools as your Superintendent. Having spent my first 7 years in Deer Park working as the Director of Teaching and Learning, I feel as though I’ve been afforded a unique opportunity to begin my work with an “informed” perspective on Deer Park’s journey. Having an understanding of where we’ve been and where we’re going has allowed our leadership team to foster a sense of continuity and consistency that I believe is absolutely vital in midst of our changing educational landscape.
There are many areas in which our district is working hard to improve, yet with that said, there are truly many things of which we can be proud in our schools. I am particularly proud of the collaborative spirit that exists in Deer Park. The teamwork I see on a daily basis is evidence of a staff committed to working together to provide a safe and supportive culture focused on learning. I am excited about the start another school year, as these new beginnings are filled with energy and with the possibilities that working together provides.
As I look ahead, this I know for sure – no one person or group is capable of accomplishing our mission alone. The task of providing a comprehensive education for all the children we serve is simply too complex and, more than ever, the challenges facing our schools are significant. We have been tasked with the implementation of the new Common Core Standards in math and English/language arts and in order to meet that challenge, we are working hard to integrate new materials at every grade to level that are aligned to those standards. This spring, students will face brand new assessments that test understanding of these new rigorous standards. Pilot tests were used nation wide this past year and every indication is that these assessments are difficult and require more of our students than ever before. In addition to that work, schools in Washington are implementing completely new and more complex systems for teacher and principal evaluation. Collectively, these changes represent a “heavy lift” for our schools and, truth is, the results will not be realized overnight. Nevertheless, we remain committed to continuous improvement and we will rise to these challenges before us.
There is much to be excited about as we look ahead at the 2014-15 school year. This summer saw unprecedented levels of hiring in Deer Park and every building in our district welcomes a number of new teachers and staff members. I am thrilled about the new staff we’ve hired and believe their energy and enthusiasm will be a huge asset to our schools. In some cases, the new faces replace teachers who have retired or moved on to new positions elsewhere, but in a few other cases the new teachers are the result of commitments made in the 2014-15 budget to address growth and to provide additional instructional support. I appreciate how hard our staff has worked during the years of budget cuts to cover positions lost. These new additions will greatly enhance our ability to serve students.
We’re implementing exciting new STEM programs at both Deer Park Middle School and Deer Park High School. Courses in Robotics and Automation and Design and Modeling are now elective options at DPMS, while new courses in Biomedical Sciences and Engineering will be offered to students at DPHS. Deer Park High School’s new Industrial Arts and Workforce Technology instructor has installed a Laguna Smartshop II CNC router to work along with a new state of the art computer lab where students will use Solidworks 3D modeling software to work through the design and creation processes. These STEM programs place emphasis on an interdisciplinary and applied approach to instruction that is coupled with hands-on, problem-based learning, building connections between the fields of math and science, meaningfully integrating technology, and engaging students in the engineering design process.
We have also continued to make investments in technology to support learning throughout the district. We’ve expanded our wireless infrastructure, presenting an opportunity to integrate more wireless learning devices such as laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks. Increasing access to these devices in our classrooms helps teachers differentiate instruction and take advantage of the incredible materials and resources available online. The Digital Age is upon us and it is our responsibility to prepare our students to thrive in that environment.
Our district’s staff will continue to work hard to focus our energies in a positive direction. We value your input and look forward to hearing your thoughts and concerns. Thank you for your continued support – it’s going to be a great year!
Travis W. Hanson, Superintendent