What are the greatest issues impacting academic and/or social growth for all students? What more can we do collectively to facilitate student success? Those are the two questions posed to dozens of teachers and parents who took part in the first of four community meetings with the district.
"What I've learned to be true is that when you open up a conversation and you have a two-way meaningful discussion you can learn a lot. So this is our new normal," said Kent Superintendent Calvin Watts Monday night.
After the district announced last month 127 teachers were on the chopping block because of a budget deficit, parents and students took their outrage to district leadership looking for answers.
"There's been a lot of finger pointing at either the legislature or salaries or lack of enrollment. But the bottom line is people are paid to monitor that," said Kent Education Association President Christie Padilla.
Dr. Watts took over as superintendent in June of 2015. It was shortly afterward, Padilla says the union brought its concerns to the district.
"And we notified them that if you continue on this spending trajectory that you're currently on, you will end up in the red," Padilla said.
There have been calls for Watts to step down. Instead, he's stepping up to show he's competent and capable to lead the district out of the red.
Monday night he announced district overall spending is down 1.3 percent. Operational, material, and supply costs are down 19.3 percent. And for the first time in four years, the district's operations revenues are projected to exceed expenditures by $7.6 million.
"Confidence is typically built when what I say and what I do are meeting in the middle. And so far, what we've said we've needed to do, we've done," said Watts.
He says the problems began before he came on board and will take some time to fully fix, but it's a step in the right direction. For now, he'll focus on spreading the word that the district is willing to listen to questions and concerns, and take advice, hoping the teachers and parents will indeed find that confidence in him once again.