Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell is going back to school.
While Campbell herself will not be a student this year, she will, from time to time, step in and teach some of the 23,000-plus students that make up her district.
She has also challenged other district leadership with teaching credentials to step in and help substitute teach in order to alleviate the current shortage. This is one of a handful of new changes she and the district will implement in the 2017-18 school year, which began Sept. 6.
Campbell hasn’t stepped into a teaching role since 2000. She hopes this move, in addition to creating a Learning Partnership Guide for parents and students, professional development for paraeducators, and academic stimuli for Saghalie Middle School, will bring some of the most impactful changes in her first three years.
“I think what [these changes] will do is really get me attuned to staff,” Campbell said. “Now, during the lunch breaks, when I’m there, I’ll be in the cafeteria, lunch area to meet with staff.”
One of the most noticeable changes coming to the district this fall is the TAF Academy moving into Saghalie Middle School, which will be branded as “TAF@Saghalie.”
The goal is for the district to create a science, technology, engineering and math region by improving the academic program and outcomes of Saghalie Middle School, which has a record of under performance in recent years.
The hope is that over time the academic program and outcomes from that merger will act as a domino effect for the elementary schools that fully or partially feed into Saghalie — Olympic View, Brigadoon and Green Gables — while heightening interest and participation in STEM education and activities.
“A lot of our young people need project-based, hands-on, tactile kinds of learning,” Campbell said. “We’re bringing that to this school, and we believe that will ramp up the engagement, so [scholars at Saghalie] are less likely to misbehave. More importantly, there will be more of a learning environment.”
The goals Campbell and the district have for the schools were not possible without a plan, however.
So, Campbell and her leadership team put one together, the Federal Way Public Schools “Learning Partnership Guide.”
The guide is an informational booklet for grades K-8, which outlines a number of guides and tips for parents and students in their specific grade level to be successful.
It is broken down by semester and provides specific learning goals and a month-by-month “school year time line.” It also includes tips on how parents can help their children in areas such as communicating with teachers and helping students while at home.
If parents haven’t received the guides already, they will be available during back to school night.
“Just because I’m in education doesn’t mean parents know,” Campbell said. “The school I went to, that’s not how we operated. This guide puts our parents on a level playing field.”
To provide the most complete, instructional guide needed, Campbell and the district put extra focus on professional development for staff, specifically Federal Way Public Schools’ paraeducators.
Earlier this month, Campbell spoke to 400 paraeducators at Decatur High School.
Campbell admitted extra training for paraeducators has been something of a weak spot for the district over the years.
“We have not probably put as much professional development at their feet as we need,” Campbell said. “So, we’ve now got a plan, and I think they’re excited about that.”
Now, Campbell and her leadership team will go back in time.
Once a month, Campbell and her credentialed team members will fill substitute teaching roles. Campbell hopes to remind staff, students, parents and herself of what being an educator truly means.
To see if the message is being received, Campbell herself needs to see it from ground level.
“Once a month I’ll sub [a] full day in a classroom, and so will my deputy [superintendent and], leadership team,” Campbell said.
Not only will this benefit administrators, it will also help fill substitute slots. On any given day, Federal Way Public Schools needs 15-18 substitute teachers.
For Campbell, these new changes are what Federal Way schools need to be successful and competitive.
Getting administrators out of the Educational Service Center and back into classrooms is one way to demonstrate Federal Way Public Schools leadership is practicing what it is preaching.
“It will get me more accessible to staff [and] hopefully get them to see that I’m a human being, I have a heartbeat, who happens to be the superintendent, but one who is not afraid to put herself out there and be a learner,” Campbell said.