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Superintendent speaks candidly about challenges, strengths, year ahead | Bellevue Schools
The Bellevue Reporter sat down with Superintendent Amalia Cudeiro to discuss the start of school next week, Sept. 6, and important topics in the school district.
REPORTER: All of Bellevue's high schools have made Newsweek magazine's best high schools in America list. Aside from test scores, what is it that makes Bellevue high schools shine?
SUPERINTENDENT: Bellevue’s high schools, like all the schools in our district, benefit from an amazing level of parent and community support. Additionally, all of our students are expected to master a rigorous common curriculum that has been aligned to college readiness standards. Finally, all students in Bellevue have access to AP courses without having to test into these courses-in fact, the expectation is that every student will take at least one AP course before graduating from high-school and many students take two or more.
REPORTER: Tell me a bit about the diversity in the Bellevue School District.
SUPERINTENDENT: Many people may not realize that the Bellevue School District is officially a white minority district: 49.3 percent our students are Caucasian and we have at least 84 languages spoken in our schools. Just over 30 percent of our students speak a language other than English as their first language and about 22 percent of our students receive Free and Reduced Lunch. Our student population is quite diverse in race, languages, cultures and income levels.
REPORTER: What are some unique challenges for public education in Bellevue?
SUPERINTENDENT: Those same diverse conditions mean we have students who have a wide range of needs and each child deserves to have those needs met. That means providing supports to students who are challenged academically, as well as to those students who need greater challenges so their learning can be extended. Meeting the differing needs, with the current funding from the state, continues to be a challenge.
REPORTER: What are some of the unique strengths? Also, mention what kind of draw this district has. I've heard families come to Bellevue specifically for the schools.
SUPERINTENDENT: It’s true, we have many families who have moved to Bellevue specifically for the quality of our schools and we have had families move to Bellevue from all over the country. That’s because we have system-wide commitment to provide students with an excellent college-preparatory education to prepare them for college, career and life. Our strengths lie in a common curriculum, high expectations for all students, a strong teaching corps, principals who are instructional leaders, and again—amazing support from parents and community
REPORTER: Tell me about some of the additions to district programs that you're especially excited about.
SUPERINTENDENT: We are very excited about the work going on in each and every one of our schools. However, we do have a few new programs that hold tremendous promise and offer parents and students additional options and opportunities. Our new Big Picture School and our new STEM program at Sammamish High school have an emphasis on problem based learning and will offer mentorships and internships for students. Our new dual language programs, Chinese at Ardmore and Spanish at Sherwood Forest, will provide opportunity for students to become bilingual and bi-literate; skills very much in demand in a global economy.
REPORTER: How do you see this year going with the projected budget cuts in Olympia. Do you have a plan in place for how to handle that?
SUPERINTENDENT: Our finance department has taken a conservative approach to budgeting, yet the cuts from the state will have impacts. Several years ago the District made cuts with the help of a Fiscal Advisory Committee; a group of citizens and staff who provided solid feedback on priorities as well as revenue options. Our commitment is to keep impacts away from the classroom, but we will have to constantly monitor budget information from the state because at this point, the extent of future cuts is unknown.
REPORTER: What were some of the tougher decisions for the 2011-12 school year that had to be made in the face of state and federal budget cuts?
SUPERINTENDENT: Because the district made deep cuts in the past, took a conservative approach and our enrollment has risen which has carried with it some state funds, we did not have to cut any programs this year. However, we are waiting to hear what cuts could come from the state in mid-year revenue reductions.
REPORTER: What advice do you have for parents sending their young children off to public school (kindergarten) for the first time?
SUPERINTENDENT: Meet your child’s teacher and ask how you can support the lessons taught in the classroom at home. Attend Curriculum Nights and get to know your school principal. Ask how you can help and get involved in PTSA.
REPORTER: What advice or suggestions do you have for students?
SUPERINTENDENT: K-12 heading back to school? Try to stay ahead of your lessons and listen carefully in class. Ask questions if you don’t understand what is explained. Try to think about how your lessons can be applied in the real world. Challenge your teachers’ thinking if you have a different view and yes, do your homework. Eat healthy and get lots of sleep — it really helps.
REPORTER: Anything else you'd like to say?
SUPERINTENDENT: I am very excited about our new contract with the teacher’s association. I believe that both the union and the district worked hard to reach agreement on areas that are critical to the continued academic success of our students and further development and support of our teaching professionals.