The Snoqualmie Valley School District (SVSD) recently welcomed Lance Gibbon Ed.D. like his new superintendent. Education is in Gibbon’s genes. As a fourth generation educator, he said his parents, who were both teachers, instilled a passion for learning in him.
“In many ways, teaching is our family business,” Gibbon said. “… My youngest son is carrying on the family tradition and pursuing studies in music education at the University of the Pacific in Seattle, where I obtained my masters and doctorate degrees.”
For the past 30 years, Gibbon has served as Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Elementary School Principal, Assistant Principal, Professional Developer for Technology, and Elementary Music Teacher.
Gibbon said he felt lucky to be able to serve as the SVSD superintendent. “We have wonderful schools, a very supportive community, and it’s a great place to live. While there is still work to be done and room for improvement, we are building on a track record of success, and I truly believe the best is yet to come.
What are your goals for this school year?
I think our students, staff and families finished last school year with the hope that this fall would bring a return to normal. The Delta variant, the heated debates over masks and vaccination, and the return of health restrictions have taken their toll at a time when everyone was trying to recover from the trauma of the past 18 months.
My main goal is to help our students, staff and families get back on the road to recovery. Our professional development at the start of this year focused on socio-emotional learning and the well-being of students and staff. We must give thanks to our students, to ourselves and to each other as we work to recover and restore what has been lost.
I have spent a lot of time listening to staff, parents and the community, learning about our strengths, challenges and needs. Based on what I’ve heard so far, I plan to focus on improving and expanding our internal and external communications; increase the engagement of parents, students and staff; increase transparency and create clearer systems.
What were the biggest challenges for you working in public education?
Public education seems to be constantly charged with new mandates and expectations to solve many of the major social problems in society. I believe schools have been used as lightning rods amid social and political arguments, preventing our staff and resources from focusing on our students. This has been particularly difficult during the pandemic. My biggest challenge is to isolate our staff and students from the negative effects of these debates, so that they can focus their energy on the care and education of our children.
What has been the most rewarding about working in public education?
The work we do really matters. It has a lasting and profound impact on the lives of our children and the future of our communities. I hear so many stories from our families and graduates of how a teacher, coach or staff member inspired, supported or encouraged them. It is so much fun to see our students engaged in learning and connecting with each other in our classrooms. I can also see the result of these experiences through the amazing things our students are able to accomplish in our schools, our community and beyond.
Has the pandemic changed your view of education? If so, how?
The pandemic has forced us to reassess some of our education priorities. He shed light on some of the equity issues in our school system as well as the importance of meeting the social and emotional needs of our students. We have already started to allocate more resources to these areas.
It has also become clear that our education system needs to be more flexible and offer more options for families, from in-person to virtual education to home schooling, to better support all students. In addition, technology now plays a more central role in our work. Providing all students with online tools, access and resources has opened up new learning opportunities. The new tools also make it easier and more effective for families and teachers to communicate, and teachers to collaborate in new ways, supporting student learning.
How has SVSD pivoted to serve its students during the pandemic?
Thanks to our community’s support for a technical tax, our district was fortunate to have completed the rollout of an individual computing initiative that equipped every student in Grades 6 to 12 with a district laptop computer to use at school and at home until they graduate. This allowed us to immediately focus on devices and access for our elementary students. These early months, as the pandemic evolved, required thinking about new ways to connect with families and support all students from a distance.
To bring students back for in-person learning last year, we worked to define new security protocols, train all staff and students, develop new hybrid learning models to meet social distancing requirements and adopt new technological tools to improve classroom communication and monitor the health of our school community. Our staff have shown creativity, an extraordinary willingness to learn new ways of teaching and a commitment to keeping their students engaged.
As we begin this new year, we know we have work to catch up – certainly academically, but perhaps more importantly, in forging strong relationships with students. While COVID remains a risk, we are optimistic about the increase in the number of people vaccinated and returning to school full-time, five days a week. Our service this year will focus on social / emotional support and reconnecting with students in a meaningful way. We want every student to feel in their place and have hope for their future.