• How Do We Grade During the Shutdown? “Do No Harm” is the Answer.

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 17, 2020

    Grading blog

    Note: We've been blown away by the response to this blog post. It's challenged thinking and caused great discussions all across the state. Since the time of this post, OSPI released their grading guidance document. AWSP supports the guidance from OSPI and the workgroup (which three of our associate directors served on). For our latest thoughts on grading, read this post.

    If we are assigning grades right now, what we are grading is PRIVILEGE. Without the equalizing force of the school building and its services, limited as they are, we are grading on access to technology, wifi, food, housing, security, and ableism.   ~Sim Kern.

    You may have seen this quote in the Twittersphere. It’s true and timely. You might also be aware that grades have long been a function of privilege-based meritocracy. Our educational system struggles to avoid layering privilege upon privilege, often measuring punctuality and compliance rather than discernment, critical analysis and habits of mind.

    Today, in our earnest search for solutions to address grading during the COVID-19 health crisis, this long list of well-intended ideas that have surfaced unfortunately falls outside principles of equity, will expand opportunity gaps and lacks relevancy in a time of pandemic:

    • Continue A-F grading
    • Use weighted grading
    • A/B/Credit
    • A/Incomplete
    • A/B/Incomplete
    • A/B/C/Pass/No Credit
    • Credit/No credit
    • Pass/Fail
    • Pass/No Pass
    • Pass/Incomplete
    • Giving a certain percentage of points for minimal completion and compliance.
    • Ensuring no grades will be lowered, but not providing viable and equitable opportunities for all students to raise their grades.
    • Allowing only students with a “B” an opportunity to improve their grade to an “A” (students with grades below a “B” will Pass/Fail).
    • Allow all students to improve their grades (presuming they have access and the means).

    These ideas have been articulated by well-meaning, thoughtful educational leaders from across the state. They represent versions of what we’re accustomed to. However, unprecedented times require unprecedented solutions and the accompanying freedom to solve problems in unorthodox ways. This is not business as usual and we should not act as though it is. At a time when our system-wide instructional capacity has been severely hindered, our equity-centered mission should ensure, first and foremost, all decisions do no harm. We must adhere to an educational version of the Hippocratic Oath.

    Let’s do no harm while we continue to arrange remote “instruction”, provide meals, support child-care and relentlessly pursue relationships and connections with all students and families. We can maintain rigor and increase engagement with relevant, motivating content, focused, meaningful feedback and teacher-student connections. And, perhaps during this time and with creativity, we may find our newfound solutions for grades lend way to addressing the deep-seated inequities of our school system.

    And as to the immediate question of, “What should we do about ‘grading’ between the time schools were shut down and the end of the school year?” Well, I recently encountered an intriguing solution. It is straightforward, equitable, rather elegant and supports learning across the entire system.  Most importantly, it does no harm.

    The solution being offered by Milken Award winning educator, Dr. Manuel Rustin, as articulated in a recent essay, is…wait for it…Give Them All A’s.


    Before you diss and dismiss, take five minutes to read his essay.  It is quite compelling.  As you read, breathe deeply and let the logic and compassion wash over you.  Consider how it makes sense for students and families.  What are the downsides? Are there any? What questions might the public need us to answer? How might we muster the collective agency and political will to shift the status quo in this way? Would it really be all that difficult? Might the timing of such an idea be perfect for this moment?


    I was skeptical when I first heard Dr. Rustin’s idea. "Isn’t it just giving everyone a participation ribbon?" Well - after a second read - not really…no. Not anymore than the federal government providing Economic Impact Checks, as Dr. Rustin points out, to keep things moving forward and give grace and space to students, while trying to do no harm


    Prior to reading Dr. Rustin’s essay, my ideas were clearly situated within a pre-COVID-19 context. However, when juxtaposed against all other ideas listed above and filtered through the lens of an educational Hippocratic Oath, it became very compelling, particularly since there is precedence for putting it into action.

    On April 15, Alison Collins, Commissioner of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education tweeted the following:

    The SF Board of Education directed staff to present a plan to give all our students A’s. No incompletes. Just A’s. This decision was made with full support of teachers and other education leaders. I’m so grateful to be part of this district.

    Give them all A’s. Just A’s. An unprecedented solution for an unprecedented time that supports communities exactly where they are…where we all are. Simple, logical, humane, equitable and fair. An action-oriented solution that presumes the positive, supports learning, benefits all students, families and teachers and, most importantly, does no harm.

    If you have questions or would like to engage in a conversation about these ideas, please email me.

  • Kaiser Permanente's Self-Care Bingo

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 17, 2020

    Self Care Blog

    We all know that self-care during this pandemic is important. Our wellness partner, Kaiser Permanente, has lots of great resources to help with this. They believe that the best thing that we can do is to take care of ourselves first so that we can be healthy and strong for our students.

    This week, we have a “Self Care BINGO” activity to share. Check out this BINGO card and see how long it might take for you to get one BINGO. How about a different BINGO? How about a blackout? Challenge your staff members to do the same. I’ll send an AWSP Amazon Gift card for the first person to Tweet or email me their Bingo Blackout!


    Download your card!

  • AWSP News for April 17, 2020

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 17, 2020


    In this episode of AWSP News, we discuss:

    • our grade-level specific Office Hours,
    • our Networked Improvement Community grants,
    • Kaiser Permanente’s resources for self-care,
    • the “Equity through Master Scheduling: Creating College Ready Transcripts Workshop” offered by OSPI,
    • the “Labor and Management: Coming Together to Further Outcomes for All Students” workshop sponsored by CSTP,
    • weekly discussions about the Science and Culture of Hope with Rick Miller,
    • a Zoom discussion with educators about preparing other ideas to support the Class of 2020,
    • and a fundraising campaign to help us bounce along until we can reopen our Learning Centers.

    Prefer to read the news? Check out the script.

  • The Principal Sandwich

    by Scott Seaman | Apr 16, 2020
    photo of sandwich and work station

    Having fun yet? Did you ever consider that you'd one day be a virtual school leader for your students, staffulty, and community? Have you dug back through your principal-prep books to open the section on "How to lead your school virtually?"

    Well, no one could predict what we now call our current reality, but either way, here we are. So what's next? Principals have always been in the middle of the sandwich. You don't sit at the policy level of the district or board, but you are also not in the classroom teaching the kids directly, yet you have the greatest impact on school culture, effective systems, and continuous learning for everyone. We call that the principal sandwich. You are sandwiched between policy and practice.

    During a crisis like COVID19, your entire community comes to you for answers, yet you often don't have the information or authority to provide the answers. You've got pressure from every side looking to you for support, guidance, direction, therapy, counsel, accountability, vision, and hope. Regardless of what is happening in the broader scale of the state, nation, and world, you are still held accountable for creating and fostering a school climate and culture that inspires both kids and adults. From the sandwich, you lead. From the sandwich, you encourage. From the sandwich, you inspire. From the sandwich, you persevere and persist. 

    Principaling has always been a daunting task, but now, principaling in the digital realm has completely redefined the role and responsibilities. We've heard directly from members that their job is "twice as hard as it was before," and "I'm working longer hours than I was before" and "I barely had time to take care of myself before, I certainly can't anymore." These are all quotes from the sandwich. However, these are all quotes from principals, assistant principals and other school leaders who refuse to let our current reality disrupt their mission to unwaveringly serve their schools. Again, from the sandwich.

    From the moment this crisis landed in our society, AWSP has been actively striving to advocate for you as you sit in the middle of policy and practice. We take your stories and share them with policymakers who also have the daunting task of leading right now. We take your challenges, success, and barriers and use them to inform decisions that will have a direct impact on you and your kids. What you do every day in the sandwich matters and we continue to share that with the world.

    I believe we will all return to a new normal at some point. Our schools (brick and mortar) play too important of a role in our society for us to abandon what we've always considered public education. We will be back. I believe in what our schools provide for kids regarding their academic needs. However, I believe a lot more in what we provide in terms of health, safety, security, consistency, relationships, and hope. Those to me are the main reasons why we need to be back to normal, and back as soon as it is safe for us to do so.

    In the meantime, keep principaling. Keep fighting from the middle of the sandwich for what is best for your kids and your school. Keep leading as a bright light and beacon of hope for your kids and adults. And don't ever second guess how much you matter...even if you feel like you are in the middle of the sandwich.

  • WEBINAR: Jostens High School Graduation and Other Activities Discussion

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 15, 2020

    Graduation webinar blog image


    When: Apr 20, 2020 03:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
    Topic: Graduation Celebration


    Seniors across the state of Washington have been left without the opportunity to participate in many traditional celebrations including graduation. Our time during this webinar will focus on how we can collectively create celebrations that students and families will remember.

    After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
  • Virtual Educator Overnight

    by David Morrill | Apr 15, 2020
    photo of a laptop on a desk


    Everyone has gone above and beyond to implement this new normal. Principals and district office staff have converted space in their home as their new office and teachers have transformed a space in their home as their new classroom.

    Teachers had to reinvent themselves to become distance learning educators overnight. This is no easy task and has been time-consuming for them. We are proud of all the teachers within the district for being creative in their efforts to reach students and try new technology. Across the district, teachers are using a variety of platforms to connect with their students remotely to include: streaming live on Facebook, YouTube videos, Google Classroom, Seesaw, phone calls, text messages and emails to name a few. 

    District-wide, homeroom teachers are sending a weekly email to students and parents on their roster every Monday with their expectations for the week. Additionally, they are responsible for taking weekly attendance that is based on two-way communication made throughout the week. Teachers have virtual office hours for parents and students. They can also be reached with a virtual phone number that enables them to receive calls and text messages directly on their computer or cell phone.

    We and our students are living in history at this moment. This is a once in a lifetime event that we have encouraged our students to capture.  Many students are journaling their experiences and expressing their feelings in a personal journal that they may choose to share with their own children one day. Kimmy Wiese (parent of two students who attend Columbia Crest) stated, “I’ve had my children journal since Monday, March 16th, 2020. We thought it was the most important writing they could be doing right now!”

    Lastly, we have to recognize the strength and courageous leadership of our superintendent, Krestin Bahr.  She is leading us through this journey, keeping us positive and on the right track. 

    Photo of Allison ShewAllison Shew is the principal at Columbia Crest A-STEM Academy in the Eatonville School District.  
  • COVID-19 Student Reflections

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 14, 2020
    Student Voice blog

    Throughout these challenging times the voice of the students should be at the core. 
    The AWSL Student Voice and Advisory Council took time to share their thoughts, questions and perspectives on how COVID-19 is affecting their academic, social, and personal livelihoods.

    What are you most concerned about right now as a student in regards COVID-19, and your academics?

    Graduation ceremonies.
    How will this impact my financial aid scholarships for universities I've already been accepted into?
    Making up tests, getting help on assignments. I go to the biggest school in Washington with teachers who have 100’s of other student this trimester and taking challenging courses like physics and anatomy, it is hard to learn at home. Also being a senior plays an impact on my motivation as many seniors don’t know how work is being graded and if the assignments are even worth doing or are we done for the school year.
    My biggest concern is finding motivation to complete my assignments. Since the beginning of the year my AP exams are the things that have kept me going and motivated me to work hard but being out of school I’ve realized it was much more than those exams that motivated me. It was being able to interact with your peers every day and having teachers in presence to help you with any questions you may have. I guess I speak for myself and many other seniors world-wide when I say we’re all slowly losing our motivation.
    I'm most concerned with dealing with college in the classroom courses now moved online. These were difficult classes while in school, and now when moved online, I fear I wont be able to keep up, resulting in loss of a credit of damage to my transcript. Colleges are still moving along and don't follow the timelines and structure that my high school has set so it makes it extremely hard to balance.
    The one thing I am concered is being able to maintain my grades and be able to take care of younger siblings. This can be difficult because I feell like I become a ¨teen mom" as soon my parents leave for work.
    SAT/ACT and how it will affect scholarships/college applications. Different levels of teachers stepping up (or not) to teach during online learning—what work is required, how will we be graded, how does everything factor into graduation requirements? Kind of stressed since I can't even connect with my counselor anymore.
    I am worried about the quality of my education because of it being online. I am a visual learner mostly so being in class with a teacher present is helpful. It’s been hard not having a teacher present.
    Graduation Ceremony, College Commencement.
    As a student, I am concerned with ending my senior year the best way possible. It is difficult to acknowledge the fact that I am ending a chapter in my life with little to no goodbye to my high school experience. In terms of academics, I am concerned with the fact on what and how I am going to learn for these last eight weeks. I know that schools are communicating with their students as best they can, I just wish that it was more accessible for all students.
    I’m concerned about students who don’t work well in environment ms that aren’t already determined as “working” environments. Online Learning is very difficult for certain personality types and I worry about that. Not only this, but students who don’t have a SAFE, consistent, and/or secure home environment. They’re held at the same standard and that worries me as well.
    One thing I am worried about is equitable grading policies. As there are many issues regarding a fair grading system in this difficult situation, it is so important that everyone is included in a fair grading policy to reduce stress and encourage healthy participation. I am also worried about student mental health. As this is a tough and confusing time for all of us, it is vital that adults in the education world continue their support for student mental health into this long isolation.
    I am mainly concerned about the school's curriculum and the ability to teach all students the needed material. I am worried that students will fall behind and will have to deal with the consequences caused by the pandemic. This meaning, having to re-take a class, failing a class, making up the whole year again, not having enough credits or even getting enough community service hours needed to graduate on time.

    What is something that education stakeholders might not understand in regards to the realities you, and other students are facing?

    As a senior and someone who has been extremely involved as a student leader and event planner for the school I think it’s really hard for us to transition into this period of unknown and we don’t know how to help other students or how to make them comfortable with what we are going through. Being able to reach out and help continue to build the culture/ family atmosphere that we have all worked so hard for has been hard on us at least me.
    All of the milestones that the class of 2020 has been waiting twelve years for are gone now and we are heartbroken. We need a way to be recognized, to have closure, a sense of triumph, and a way to say goodbye.
    The loss of motivation online schooling has. As a senior who has trouble focusing and has to study in environments like coffee shops, study halls, and classrooms I’m having difficulty studying in my home with my entirety family trying to go about their day. Schools may not understand this but as a senior I know the way I learn and I learn by interactive classrooms, studying in quiet areas with people around to motivate me to stay on task, and by working through problems/ examples and at home I am not getting any of these things and I’m struggling to learn the content as well as I could if school was in session.
    That Senior year was much more than the academics, a graduation ceremony and prom. The biggest thing for us is that the school year ended so suddenly there were no chances to say goodbye. Also, I don’t think the new AP exams have been explained very well, we’re going to need a lot more transparency than “it’s a condensed version” but I understand we may get that with time. It’s been a learning experience for everyone, parents, students and all school staff members.
    I think a lot of them feel that the transition to online school shouldn't be as difficult as it has been, and are disappointed with lack of attendance or decrease in quality When you are used to being in a classroom for 8 hrs a day and having physical guidance, its very difficult to keep yourself grounded and focused in on school at home, especially with the uncertainty of the worlds current situation. Most students were not expecting this, and were not prepared for the self discipline online learning takes.
    Is knowing that being apart from where our education takes place (Schools) can cause a distraction because you are going to be home and some students might think that they could put off their work for later.
    Yes, academics is a big worry right now. But there are also so many other things students get from school: our clubs, our teams, our "school moms" and "school dads" -- these connections feel like they're slipping away. We lack a sense of closure with all these other parts of school, especially for seniors. How are we still giving our thank yous to teachers and close friends? How are we still celebrating milestones like prom and graduation? How are we transitioning events our clubs and activities have planned for the whole year to something online?
    Basically same as above, it’s hard to learn new material when there is not a teacher there to y’all on the spot. Also, internet access, lots of students don’t have the same internet access as others so it can be hard to get online work done.
    The difficulty of homeschooling.
    Advocating for my peers around me, there has been situations in which I know of in where there are students who despise their home life and relied on school to give them a safe and friendly environment. With schools being closed indefinitely, these students are having difficulty with the nurture of their mental and emotional health as their homes are not safe places to be in. These students should receive more leniency in regards to anything academic, as educators need to see them beyond their student ID number and late work.
    That we all work in different way. Our brains adapt to different settings and we learn in different ways. People making these big decisions are probably going to be a certain type of person (one who knows exactly what to do to better themselves and maximize the proficiency of their work) and that’s annoying.
    While the issue regarding equity to access of distance learning materials has been talked about thoroughly and is being addressed, there is also an equity issue that many have not considered. This being the inequities in motivation for students. Many, if not the majority, of students rely on school to provide a learning atmosphere that can encourage them to get excited about their learning. The reality of this situation, is that not all students are sheltering in households that can encourage them with their learning endeavors. This creates a huge inequity between those who are motivated by their setting, versus those who are left alone during this time. I believe this is something important for districts to consider as grading and credit policies are created.
    Taking online courses will be a way to continue teaching students, but students learn in many different ways. Providing online courses does not promise student understanding. The courses can be instructed unclearly and result in lower grades. Which creates issues in the overall learning of students.

    What is a question or questions that still exists regarding academics and COVID-19 that have not been answered for you yet? This could be in regards you credit, grading, expectations, etc.

    How will we continue to do online classes. For ex. I am a senior who is taking a PE credit online through BYU IS that I need for graduation but how will I be able to take the final if my councilors are unable to proctor the test since we are out of school?
    I don't understand if the learning is still optional now or not, because my district originally presented it as optional learning engagement opportunities and they lost contact with a LOT of students because of that.
    If we continue to do the assignments and keep up to date on them but aren’t doing good on the content are we going to get bad grades or not graduate? As I’m having trouble learning at home and taking a class like physics that I have never took before, I’m having trouble getting through assignments.
    4th quarter expectations and grading.
    I don't really have any that apply to more people/students than myself.
    How will state testing work because I know I have to take tests for college that I did not end up taking this school year.
    ^^ see above, grading and expectations are huge, both for students and teachers. As a student, I want to know what expectations my teachers are receiving because at the moment it seems like there are no expectations.
    How will teachers who don’t normally do online anything, do online class. Especially for classes like shop, TA, and other electives?
    Will we be able to postpone or make up events later?
    How are schools working to prioritize students mental and emotional health? Many students understand that they need to continue doing their school work and many are doing this, but is it possible for schools to limit the amount of final examinations given to students due to the added strain on students mental health over this closure?
    Are seniors responsible for applying to waivers? Or are counselors in charge of that? And how are seniors supposed to know if they need the waiver and/or qualify for it ?
    Will state-wide guidelines/suggestions for districts be released by OSPI in regards to grading and credit?
    What steps will schools or districts make if the overall grade turnout this year isn't above a passing grade? What will schools or districts do about certain graduation requirements that cannot be met due to the pandemic's regulations?
  • Webinar: Supporting School-Based Child Care Service during the COVID shutdown

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 14, 2020
    Child Care Webinar Banner

    On April 13, 2020 we assembled an expert panel of state, regional, district, and community partners to provide guidance, resources, and advice on child care during the COVID shutdown.

    Panelists included:

    - Tana Senn, WA State Representative, Chair Human Services and Early Learning Committee
    - Karma Hugo, Director of Early Learning, OSPI
    - Kristi Dominguez, Executive Director, Teaching and Learning, Bellingham School District
    - Nicole Rose, Assistant Director for the Quality Practice and Professional Growth, Department of Children, Youth and Families
    - William Jackson, Assistant Principal, Nathan Hale High School and lead coordinator for COVID child care response, Seattle School District

    Couldn't make it? Watch the replay:

  • Grade-Level Office Hours

    by Caroline Brumfield | Apr 13, 2020



    Looking to connect with other school leaders at your building level? Join us on Zoom for these upcoming grade-level-based office hours:

    High School:

    Middle Level:


  • Free Webinars from Ed Leaders Network

    by David Morrill | Apr 10, 2020
    ELN Logo


    Strategies for Leading Through COVID19

    April 15, 1–2 pm
    Description: During this session, your members will learn things such as:

    • Effective communication strategies during online learning
    • Tools and tips for leading online Learning
    • How to build unity and support during this time
    • Building school culture during online learning
    • Skills to make zoom meetings productive
    • Keys for social/emotional learning and mental health
    • How to support students, parents, faculty, and staff during this time
    • Getting Creative How to inspire and model creativity during this time
    • How this experience will transform learning in the future when we are back to normal!

    Registration link.

    ELN Virtual Tour

    April 16, 8–9 am
    Description: Are you new to Ed Leaders Network? Has it been a while since you’ve logged in? Join Ed Leaders Network Director, Arlin Peebles, on a guided virtual tour into the learner and manager roles. Learn how to maximize your use of ELN to access high-quality, on-demand professional learning on a variety of educational topics. Educators will learn how to search and filter the learning library, while administrators will learn how to manage their team by creating courses, assigning content to staff, and running usage reports on the ELN learning management system. There will also be time for your questions.

    Registration link

    Preparing Students for College, Careers and Civic Responsibilities in the 21st Century

    April 21, 12:30 - 2:30 pm
    Description: Our Virtual Learning Systems 13 units under the Government Strands of History, Geography, Economics, and Government is your solution to a successful inquiry-based classroom. Our units are designed to:

    • Encourage reading, writing, and research
    • Advocate working in teams
    • Develop student’s thinking and evaluation skills
    • Teach our students how to ask questions, conduct interviews
    • Encourage logistical and critical thinking
    • Teach how to uncover information and evidence
    • Help students reach conclusions and advocate a position, taking informed action
    • Help students understand the financial and economic outcomes based on their conclusion.

    Registration link.

  • Online Learning: Managing Behavior and Learning

    by David Morrill | Apr 10, 2020

    WAVA logo image

    We recently reached out to our contacts at online schools including Washington Virtual Academies and K12, Inc. They know that teaching students in an online environment presents challenges and are graciously sharing lots of resources with us.

    Nate Davis, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors, K12 Inc. released a statement on March 20 that said in part:

    “For public school districts, as well as charter, private and religious schools now facing uncertainty for the remainder of this school year, K12 is offering a menu of options to support technical and capacity needs. We are also offering free resources for families at home with their children during the school year, as well as for those looking for virtual education options over the summer.” 

    Here are two online learning opportunities that you and your teachers can take advantage of right now:

    Another fantastic resource is from the Center on PBIS titled Creating a PBIS Behavior Teaching Matrix for Remote Instruction

    Special thanks to Summer Shelton, Washington Virtual Academies Head of Schools, for sharing a great resource page and seven recorded webinars on leading and managing virtual learning. Look for more resources soon – and if you have any to share with others, let us know!

  • AWSP News for April 10, 2020

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 10, 2020


    In this edition of AWSP News, we discuss:

    • your amazing leadership during these unprecedented times,
    • better work-life balance and selfcare,
    • the Governor’s school closure announcement,
    • information, resources, tools, and ongoing professional learning,
    • our Weekly Friday Zoom AWSP Office Hours,
    • separate office hours next week for grade-level specific virtual convenings,
    • some upcoming online learning sessions from Inclusionary Practice Demonstration Sites from around the state,
    • emergency rules that allow school districts to apply for greater flexibility in awarding diplomas to seniors impacted by closures,
    • a Virtual Commencement Toolkit for every high school in our state,
    • a 60 second survey,
    • an upcoming webinar,
    • and National Assistant Principals Week.

    Prefer to read the news? Check out the script.

  • Register for the Inclusionary Practices Demonstration Sites

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 10, 2020

    Register for the Inclusionary Practices Demonstration Sites

    The University of Washington Haring Center is hosting online learning sessions with four school sites the week of April 20 to showcase the inclusionary practices these schools are implementing.

    Each school has specific and particular practices they are using based on the students they are serving. To read more about each site and register for a session, click on the links below.  Clock hours will be available through the UW.

  • The Show Will Go On!

    by David Morrill | Apr 09, 2020

    jostens virtual grad image

    We know there have been way more questions than answers as the entire P-16 education system has moved into this new reality of distance learning. And now that we’ve officially heard from our Governor that schools will remain closed through the end of the year, even more questions are surfacing.

    So, what about the Class of 2020? What about all of those year-end events for seniors to celebrate the end of their K-12 experience? What about the graduation ceremony itself...the cap, gown, and tassel toss?

    Well, here at AWSP, we are proud to say that the show will go on. We never questioned whether or not graduations would happen, but rather how. Face to face or virtual? Ideally, we’d love to see this pandemic disappear in time for traditional graduation ceremonies to take place, but realistically we should all be thinking about how to create a powerful, personal, and engaging virtual graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020.

    A few weeks ago, we were approached by the leaders from the national corporate offices of Jostens to begin discussing how to create virtual graduation resources for principals. I have always appreciated the student-centered philosophy at Jostens and this was just another example of their proactive and intentional devotion to school culture and providing hope to our seniors in the Class of 2020.

    As a veteran (still recovering) high school principal myself, the graduation ceremony was always one of my favorite moments of the year. I took great pride in making sure we not only recognized both the individual and class accomplishments of our seniors, but truly celebrated their high school experience.

    When the Governor announced this week that we would not be returning, you could hear the collective crying and tears of students, staffulty, and parents from across the state at what can easily be described as the sense of loss. Loss of senior moments. Loss of celebrations. Loss of connections and relationships. Loss of closure. We are in mourning, and there is no other way to describe this sense of loss.

    I can only handle sadness, depression, and a cup-half-empty mindset for so long before I start to unravel. So, I just don’t let myself stay there mentally for too long. Instead of thinking about what is no longer possible for our seniors, I’m excited to think about what is possible for them. And that is why we are incredibly excited to share some amazing new resources for high school principals and other district leaders at the Jostens Virtual Commencement Center.

    From the processional music to speeches, to special guest presentations/speeches (ie. from our Governor, local celebrities, movie stars, etc.), to awards and recognition, to diploma presentations, to tossing caps high in the air, Jostens has created a framework for principals to follow as they lead one of the most memorable graduation ceremonies ever for students, staffulty, and families. Jostens truly has thought of everything in the preparation of their resources, but have left a ton of room for principals to incorporate their own flavor, creativity, and culture.

    So, now that a virtual graduation is most likely our reality, what should be your next steps?

    1. Form a Graduation Planning Committee (must include your senior students!)

    2. Check out the Jostens Virtual Commencement Center (use access code Jostens_VCC)

    3. Contact your local Jostens representative for support

    4. Reach out to AWSP for other ideas, resources, etc.

    5. Begin planning an incredible ceremony for the Class of 2020

    One side note, Jostens has made all of these resources available and free to all schools whether they are a Jostens school or not. This is not about which company you use for caps, gowns, and class rings, but rather a collective effort to celebrate the Class of 2020.

    If you have any questions or need help on where to start, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Or for a quick overview, watch the 2-minute video below.

  • Flexibility for Graduating Seniors Approved by State Board

    by David Morrill | Apr 09, 2020
    The Washington State Board of Education (SBE) approved emergency rules Wednesday, April 8 that allow flexibility and local-approval following extensive school building closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

    Read their full press release below.

    OLYMPIA, WA – April 8, 2020
    At a special Board Meeting today, the State Board of Education adopted emergency rules that allow school districts to apply for greater flexibility in awarding a diploma to high school seniors impacted by closures. 

    The new rules are effective for the Class of 2020 immediately. They allow public school districts, charter schools, and tribal compact schools approved by the Board to waive certain state graduation requirements for individual students. To be approved, districts must make a good faith effort to give students opportunities to complete credits for high school graduation. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) gave districts guidance on how to offer students these opportunities. The waiver is an extra tool districts can use to make sure students graduate after the COVID-19 school building closures.

    "In this difficult time, our state's students come first." said State Board of Education Chair, Peter Maier. "By adopting these rules, we considered the many high school students who otherwise would face great limitations due to this historic pandemic. These new rules give flexibility to let school districts support students now, while honoring the student work done before school buildings closed."

    The new rules also allow private schools to waive credit-based graduation requirements for individual students and waive school day and instructional hour requirements for the 2019-20 school year.

    Applications for the waiver should be available online by April 15. The Board plans to host a special meeting on April 21 to review the first round of applications. 
    Quick links to resources:
  • Q&A: How Washington State Is Watching Out For Child Welfare During Coronavirus Pandemic

    by David Morrill | Apr 09, 2020
    The Seattle Times had a nice Q&A with Ross Hunter, Secretary of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). Even the best of times, managing the child welfare system is a difficult and complicated job. Learn more about how DCYF is operating and investigating during this period of social distancing. 

    Want to learn more about DCYF? Watch our AWSP TV episode with Ross Hunter, or if the sun is out, put on your walking shoes, get some Vitamin D, and listen to the audio in the podcast version

  • WEBINAR: Supporting School-Based Child Care Service During the COVID Shutdown

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 07, 2020
    Childcare blog


    When: April 13, 2020 1:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
    Topic: Supporting School-Based Child Care Service during the COVID shutdown 


    Schools have been directed to support child care service for certain families in need. This new responsibility is nuanced, complicated and has pushed systems into very new territory. AWSP assembled an expert panel of state, regional, district and community partners with the intent to provide guidance, resources, and advice.

    This webinar will provide time for a number of questions from the audience. Associate Director Kurt Hatch will lead the webinar. 

    Panelists include:


    • Tana Senn, WA State Representative, Chair Human Services and Early Learning Committee
    • Karma Hugo, Director of Early Learning, OSPI
    • Kristi Dominguez, Executive Director, Teaching and Learning, Bellingham SD
    • Nicole Rose, Assistant Director for the Quality Practice and Professional Growth, DCYF
    • William Jackson, Assistant Principal, Nathan Hale High School and lead coordinator for COVID child care response, Seattle SD
  • Retirement and Health Benefits 2020 Session Summary

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 06, 2020


    “Yes, the show must go on, But it’s also important to survive until the curtain (retirement) calls.” ~ Freddy Mercury

    Review of the 2020 Legislative Session

    Pensions, Health Care, SEBB, PEBB, Other… The legislative session has concluded, the Governor has acted, and now as the show goes on, districts have to adjust.

    Some statistics may be of interest: 1,019 bills were introduced in the House; 332 were passed; 826 bills were introduced in the Senate and 280 were passed. Overall, 386 bills passed both legislative houses and were before the Governor for action. The adopted budget, agreed to by both Houses, spent less than either of the earlier proposed budgets. Legislators pulled back spending to a degree to shore up the state’s ending balances as a prudent measure. The uncertainty of the effects of the Covid–19 virus led not only them to caution but the Governor vetoed in excess of $400 million in proposed spending.

    So, what happened regarding pensions, health care, financials and other issues?

    Pension/Retirement Related Proposals

    EHB 1390 | At the request of the Select Committee on Pension Policy grants TRS/PERS Plans 1 beneficiaries an increase to their monthly benefit of three percent multiplied by the beneficiaries’ monthly benefit, not to exceed sixty-two dollars and fifty cents on the first $25,000 of benefit. This bill passed both Houses and was signed by the Governor. Retirees will see the increase reflected in their July check.

    Comment: There’s a long story to this bill culminating in some very intense last-minute lobbying to keep it from being vetoed as a cost saving measure (given the impending fiscal demands due to the Covid–19 virus). The bottom line was that it was signed, a minor miracle.

    SB 6383 | Concerning the retirement strategy funds in the plan 3 and the deferred compensation programs. Basically, retirement strategy funds offered to individuals by the State Investment Board in the Plans 3 and DCP (Deferred Compensation Program) may now include investments in the State’s Commingled Trust Fund.

    This bill passed both Houses and was signed by the Governor. School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB) and Other Health Related Proposals

    ESSB 6189 | The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee will conduct a study to identify the number and types of part-time employees and their eligibility for SEB Board benefits. The report is due to the Legislature by September 1, 2021.

    The Health Care Authority must analyze the impacts of changes to the requirement that school employers remit premiums for employees that waive medical coverage. The analysis is due to the Legislature by September 1, 2021.

    When school districts report annually to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction on data related to substitute teachers, they must include the hours worked by each substitute and the number that were eligible for SEB Board benefits.

    Beginning with the 2022 plan year, dual coverage under the SEB Board and benefits provided under the PEB Board is prohibited for the same type of coverage. The SEB and PEB Boards shall adopt policies to reflect this single enrollment requirement.

    School employees’ eligibility for benefits provided by the SEB Board is maintained for the remainder of the school year if, during the Novel Coronavirus (COVID–19) declared state of emergency, the employee would otherwise lose eligibility because of a school closure or changes in operation, an employee being quarantined or required to care for a family member, or an employee must take care of a child during a school, day care, or child care provider closure.

    This bill passed both Houses and was signed by the Governor.

    HB 2458 | The SEB Board is provided with explicit authority to study and, subject to the availability of funding, provide the following employee-paid benefits: emergency transportation; identity protection; legal aid; long-term care insurance; noncommercial personal automobile insurance; personal homeowner’s or renter’s insurance; pet insurance; specified disease or illness-triggered fixed payment insurance, hospital confinement fixed payment insurance, or other fixed payment insurance offered as an independent, non-coordinated benefit regulated by the office of the insurance commissioner; travel insurance; and voluntary employees’ beneficiary association (VEBA) accounts.

    If the Board is not providing these benefits a school district may provide these benefits to employees. With the exception of VEBA accounts, benefits provided by a district must be employee paid and may be administered using a payroll deduction.

    If a district is found to be providing a benefit that competes with any form of basic or optional benefits that are provided by the Board the district, the provider, and the Health Care Authority (HCA) are directed to work together to eliminate the conflict.

    Comment: At the last PEBB meeting, the HCA indicated they have no current plans to seek proposals for additional PEBB offerings. This bill passed both Houses was signed by the Governor.

    Other Bills:

    ESHB 1813 | Mandates that the costs of contracted employee health and retirement benefits must be built into school district contracts for pupil transportation.

    This bill died by Senate action placing it on the “X” file, but it is expected to return in some form during the 2020–2021 session. (See future projections below.)

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/HR Impacts For Districts

    SHB 2614 | Concerning paid family and medical leave.

    Makes numerous revisions to the Paid Family and Medical Leave program to provide clarity and improve the program’s administration, including waiting periods, conditional waivers, and supplementation of benefits. Exempts casual labor from the types of covered employment. Grants the Employment Security Department (ESD) statutory authority to administer oaths, take depositions, issue subpoenas, or compel a witness’ attendance in an administrative proceeding. Allows ESD to apply for and obtain a superior court order authorizing a subpoena in advance of its issuance. Authorizes employees to bring a private right of action to recover damages for an employer’s unlawful acts, under specified conditions. This bill is agency request legislation.

    This bill passed both Houses and has been signed by the Governor.

    HB 2739 | Modifies definitions for purposes of the shared leave program. This bill originated with a constituent who teaches in the Edmonds School District and has a child with multiple chronic conditions that require intermittent attention. He found that, given current policy, employees would be required to be on full-time leave and exhaust all or nearly all leave to accept shared leave. Across Washington, many people going through difficult circumstances are helped by caring colleagues that support them through shared leave donations. This bill provides clarification on current law and also helps people who have intermittent health needs.

    This bill passed both Houses and has been signed by the Governor.

    ESSB 5473 | Requires the Employment Security Department to study the impacts to the unemployment trust fund and employer contributions for unemployment insurance by allowing exceptions to provisions disqualifying individuals from receiving unemployment benefits for leaving work voluntarily without good cause related to: (1) inaccessible care for a child or vulnerable adult; (2) substantial increases in job duties or working conditions without commensurate increase in pay; (3) separation from a minor child. Requires ESD to meet at least three times with business and worker representatives to discuss the information gathered by ESD. Removes modifications to the term good cause for unemployment purposes for the separation due to inaccessible care for a child or vulnerable adult and related to separation from work related to the death, illness, or disability of a family member.

    This bill passed both Houses and has been signed by the Governor.

    SB 6123 | An agency must allow an employee to take paid leave as needed to participate in life-giving procedures if the employee provides written proof from an accredited medical institution, physician, or other medical professional that the employee participated in a lifegiving procedure. Leave granted to participate in life-giving procedures must not exceed thirty days in a two-year period.

    This bill passed both Houses and has been signed by the Governor.

    SB 6417 | Allows retirees to change their survivor option election after retirement. The bill passed both Houses and has been signed by the Governor.

    Health Insurance Benefit In a separate part of the budget, the Medicare health insurance benefit subsidy was maintained. Up to $183/month will be applied to the cost of retiree health insurance as a subsidy.

    Selected Financials

    ESSB 6168 State Budget

    Below are selected financial figures from the adopted supplemental 2020 budget:

    2019- 2020 2020-2021
    Fringe benefit allocation 23.80% 24.03% /Allocated Certificated
    24.33% 24.44% / Allocated Classified
    Incremental fringe benefit 23.16% 23.39% / Allocated Certificated
    20.83% 20.94% / Allocated Classified

    Insurance Health Benefit:

    2019–20 School Year:

    • $973/month from 9/1/19-12/31/19

    • $994/month from 1/1/20-6/30/20

    • $1,056/month from 7/1/20-8/31/20

    • $1,000/month for 2020–21 School Year
    2019- 2020 2020-2021
    Medicare Insurance Subsidy for Retirees $183 $183

    Employer Retirement Contributions:

    • Increase of 0.23% to TRS to fund EHB 1390 (3% COLA for Plans 1 members) and an increase of 0.11% for SERS.
    2019- 2020 2020-2021
    Substitute Rate (4 subs/classroom teacher unit) $151.86 $151.86

    Unemployment Insurance Account:

    Unknown Costs. New coverage is allowed if an individual can work due to Covid–19. The legislature appropriated $25 million to cover these anticipated expenses, but if not covered, then where do the extra dollars come from?

    What will the future hold?

    Three themes run through the Washington State legislature. The predominate theme will be the effects of Covid–19 on the state budget and operations. This patina will color all actions in the foreseeable future. A second, continuing theme is that labor continues to control a large part of the legislative agenda. Three, Seattle area legislators have tremendous sway on what bills get action.

    Although many policy bills proposed during both the session failed to advance, some components will likely be re-introduced through either new legislation or reviving a previous bill during the 2021–22 Session(s).

    Moving into speculation on the future, some key activities may occur:

    1. As a result of the fiscal effects of Covid–19 shutdown, the Governor may call for a Special Session do deal with the impacts.

    2. With the upcoming election, it will be a priority for the Democrats to maintain majorities in both houses. They currently hold a strong majority in the House, and a weaker one in the Senate. There is a chance that they may lose both majorities given the challenges of campaigning and raising dollars in a Covid–19 world and the number of announced vacancies to date. See below. The Republicans are organizing opposition by beating up the Democrats over their passage of the ‘Sex Ed’ bill, and their failure to use any of the increased state revenue to at least set license tabs back to $30. Of course, having Tim Eyman and Senator Fortunato (Pierce County) as announced gubernatorial candidates on a ticket with President Trump may hurt the Republicans at the ballot.

    3. There are at least eleven retiring House members and three Senators to date who will not be returning. Filing week is May 11th which will identify all candidates. A reminder that all House positions are open, and about half the Senate. (See list below of Senate seats up for reelection) 

      Senator District Party
      Becker, Randi (Retiring) 2 R
      Billig, Andy 3 D
      Braun, John 20 R
      Cleveland, Annette 49 D
      Darneille, Jeannie 27 D
      Hasegawa, Bob 11 D
      Hawkins, Brad 12 R
      Hunt, Sam 22 D
      King, Curtis 14 R
      Lovelett, Liz * 40 D
      Mullet, Mark 5 D
      Muzzall, Ron *** 10 R
      O'Ban, Steve 28 R
      Padden, Mike 4 R
      Rivers, Ann 18 R
      Rolfes, Christine 23 D
      Schoesler, Mark 9 R
      Stanford, Derek *** 1 D
      Takko, Dean 19 D
      Van De Wege, Kevin 24 D
      Wagoner, Keith * 39 R
      Walsh, Maureen (Retiring) 16 R
      Wellman, Lisa 41 D
      Wilson, Lynda 17 R
      Zeiger, Hans (Retiring) 25 R


    4. Post-election, there will be a reshuffling of committee assignments and leadership positions in both houses. The current House Majority Leader, Representative Pat Sullivan, is retiring. A replacement has yet to be announced.

    5. There continues to be a need to get full funding of the SEBB benefits for districts. The law says that districts are to fund benefits on a per-head basis. The state funds benefits on a formula generated FTE allocation. This is an unfunded liability to districts.

    6. Past legislation allowed employees to bargain for insurance benefits for employees working less than 630 hours. There will continue to be pressure on districts to offer these benefits to all employees. A proposal before the 2020 legislature dictated that identical SEBB health benefits and retirement benefits be paid to employees who work with private providers of transportation services to school districts. This proposal failed but is likely to return. Those contracted employees such as in food service, janitorial, special education, etc. working within school districts may well ask for similar benefit coverage.

    7. As a reminder: The legislature will continue to make the implicit price deflator (IPD) the future measure when looking at inflationary increases. The traditional consumer price index (CPI) generates a higher rate of inflation using a different set of assumptions. The IPD generates a lower rate which stretches State dollars wider helping those that create budgets and allocate dollars. This potentially hurts those who are impacted by inflationary increases not measured by the IPD, like school districts.

    8. Efforts will be made to continue to increase the Medicare insurance subsidy. Rates have gone up substantially and the current $183/month is not nearly enough to offset the increased costs.

    9. Work will continue to put school retirees in the largest risk pool available to reduce their current insurance costs. Currently, K–12 retirees remain in the PEBB program/pool. The HCA is to study and make recommendations in this area.

    10. Efforts to fundamentally change the state’s current pension system into a defined contribution model (401-K) may resurface under the argument of saving the state dollars. Senator Braun, the current ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, (WM) is a leading advocate of making changes.

    11. Talk of merging the LEOFF 1 surplus budget funds into the TRS 1 pension fund may come up again. This merger would decrease the unfunded liability in Plan 1. It decreases the added surcharge employers (both state, school districts, counties and cities) are currently paying to decrease this liability. This is an issue dear to the Republican leaders.

    12. Moving to a state-wide collective bargaining contract for all K–12 employees. (This is a real ‘pie-in-the-sky’ projection.) The statewide SEBB program and bargaining model should be adapted to the wider arena to cover salaries and other benefits. The current model allowing districts to develop their own salary schedules and state disparate funding has already led to inequalities between districts and regions.

    13. K–12 education in a post-Covid–19 world will look different. Distance education, rural broadband issues, and on-line teaching will all be topics of focus. Even issues like transportation related to athletics (long-bus trips to competitions) will be a topic of concern and discussion.

    14. Related to K–12 and challenging to school districts will be the provision of services for special needs students. How do provide services?

    The show goes on amidst tremendous challenges.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to make contact.

    Fred Yancey | The Nexus Group LLC

  • AWSP News for April 3, 2020

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 03, 2020

    In this special edition of AWSP News, we discuss:

    • our daily updated website,
    • our weekly Zoom Office Hours for open discussion, Q & A, virtual hugs and principal therapy,
    • National Assistant Principals Week,
    • a Zoom meeting about high school graduation,
    • a webinar on child care,
    • maintaining equitable systems for student-learning during the COVID shut down,
    • and updates to the 2020 Resources page on the AWSL website.

    Prefer to read the news? Check out the script.

  • OSPI, Local Television Stations Partner to Offer Educational Programming

    by Xenia Doualle | Apr 03, 2020
    OSPI blog

    OSPI is partnering with the public televisions across our state. Beginning this week, your local public television station is offering educational programming for students in grades 6 – 12 from 9:00am – 2:00pm daily.  These educational programs (programs like NOVA and The American Experience) have curriculum and discussion guides available for students, teachers, and families. 

    To see the programming in your area, link to the WORLD Channel “At-Home Learning” page. At the bottom of the page you’ll see links to the schedule and to the resources for teachers, students, and families.  (To make sure you’re accessing the correct local information, you can set your local station by entering your zip code at the top of the World channel site.)