A Farewell Message from Dan Walker

A Farewell Message from Superintendent Daniel Walker
Posted on 07/09/2020
Dan Walker

A FAREWELL MESSAGE FROM SUPERINTENDENT DANIEL WALKER

Dear LKSD colleagues, students, families, & community:

My heart is full of gratitude for the 28 years that I have had the privilege to serve the people of the YK Delta — from teaching in Quinhagak to serving as principal in Eek to becoming assistant superintendent and finally superintendent of this great district.

The most rewarding part of my almost three decades in LKSD has been having the opportunity to work with students and their families, teachers, staff, administrators, the Boards and community members on a daily basis.

I am very proud of what we have accomplished as a school district and as a community, particularly the work that we have done to improve the quality of education and future outcomes for our youth.

Highlights of my time in LKSD include:

  • Yup’ik / Cup’ik Curriculum: One of our greatest successes over the past ten years has been the ongoing development of our Yup’ik / Cup’ik curriculum (Yugtun and Cugtun) and dual language model. LKSD is home to the largest percentage of indigenous educators than any district in Alaska and is the heart of Yup’ik / Cup’ik country. Our dual language model is integral to strengthening our culture and community and provides valuable cognitive and long-term benefits to our students. We have worked extremely hard to develop these Yup’ik / Cup’ik resources and demand that they be at the same rigorous academic level as our English resources. During this time, we have secured over 10 million dollars in federal grants and created numerous partnerships with Native organizations to develop these resources. These resources also transcend the dual language program as we have expanded into localized, place-based curriculum for health, personal life skills, science and social studies.

  • High Quality Digital Learning Experiences: LKSD is a recognized leader across Alaska and the U.S. in creating high quality digital learning experiences for our students. Through creative partnerships, we have made great strides to increase not only access to the Internet, but we have also increased access to distance learning classes through our use of video conferencing to bridge the deep digital Internet divide in rural Alaska. Students now have access to classes that would otherwise not have been available such as robotics and e-journalism and instruction in Yup’ik. Technology capabilities have also increased with 1- to-1 laptop or tablet programs in many schools.

  • Partnerships for Youth: We developed partnerships with organizations such as Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP), and created programs such as Ready Academies and Tengluni to help prepare students for college, life after high school, and provides access and support to numerous career and technical education options.

  • 1st District – Systems Accreditation: In 2015, LKSD became the first district in Alaska to gain “Systems Accreditation” from AdvancEd-Cognia, which has accredited over 30,000 schools worldwide for the district’s effectiveness in meeting our goals and the needs of every learner.

  • Social-Emotional Health Support: LKSD has been hypervigilant in finding ways to solve issues related to bullying and social-emotional health of our students and staff, including implementing numerous programs and support networks. From curriculum-based solutions to increased social workers and counselors, we continue to look for ways to support our staff, students and their families. LKSD is one of the only school districts to employ social workers and counselors at the level we do, and working together with these professionals has been integral to improving the social-emotional health of our staff and students, providing coping and conflict resolution tools, and saving lives.

    As a result of our efforts, our students are doing better academically. Graduation rates have risen dramatically across all 22 village schools and six Bethel schools, literacy and math competency has improved steadily, and dropout rates have continued to decline substantially.

    • Graduation rates increased from 37% in 2013 to 59% in 2019

    • Reading proficiency increased from 8% in 2015 to 10% in 2019

    • Math proficiency increased from 8% in 2015 to 17% in 2019

    • Dropout rates decreased from 8.9% in 2016 to 3% in 2019

      As you can see, we have a strong foundation for continued academic growth and success. This is why I have great hope for LKSD. The leadership team is well-equipped to ensure LKSD’s continued success and will continue to be a leader in Native education and maintain its strong focus on language and culture, which will serve our students well into the future.

      At the same time, we continue to find ways to improve our practices, including enhancing our student-centered learning climate through the expansion of social-emotional learning and resources. In addition, we have worked diligently to strengthen parent and community relationships through outreach and communication. We have also invested in professional development and training to enrich teaching practices and learning experiences in the classroom, and this includes implementing additional policies, procedures, and trainings to help identify potential warning signs of educator misconduct.

      As I leave the district, we face the continued threat of the current COVID-19 pandemic and how to move forward with the school year in August. Over the last four months, we have learned many lessons in how to educate our students remotely through distance learning. We have been diligently working with YKHC, the State of Alaska, the LKSD Board of Education, and with staff and stakeholders to formulate and execute our Smart-Start Plan for the start of the school year during this unprecedented time. We have developed our Smart-Start Plan with the understanding that the health and safety of our students, staff, and communities is of the utmost importance.

I am incredibly confident in the ability of Kimberly Hankins to lead the district. I have known and worked with Kimberly in a number of capacities over the last 20 years. Kimberly is such an incredible advocate for our students. Her more than 20 years in Alaska education, most of which has been in LKSD, give her the understanding and perspective needed to move the district forward in a positive way. This last year has certainly been challenging, but it was much easier with the support of Kimberly and her steady leadership. I rest easy at night knowing LKSD is in such incredibly capable hands

As I head into retirement, I am filled with much gratitude and immense pride for all the work that we have done together and will continue to do. There are not enough words to fully express the gratitude and respect that I have for everyone and all the work you do.

To the staff in LKSD, site administrators, teachers, and numerous classified staff: You are our unsung heroes. Thank you for your tireless work, commitment and care to our children every day to help them thrive, and make LKSD a great place to learn and work. We are so fortunate to have you all.

To our Advisory School Boards: Thank you for your leadership and support. It is the local leadership by you that moves us forward with our mission. We could not do it without you!

To the LKSD School Board: Thank you for all you do to support our students each and every day and all that you have provided to the schools and our staff. I appreciate the support and confidence that you have shown me over the years. You have continued to challenge all of us to do better and be better. You are the best School Board in the state of Alaska!

To the families and communities of LKSD: Thank you for your amazing support and encouragement. We appreciate all you do to support our students, schools, staff and community. In addition, your ongoing support and leadership is important in helping make LKSD one of the last remaining areas where the indigenous language is still intact. This is such a huge strength for our district and so important to the identity of our students.

And to the students of LKSD: Thank YOU for allowing us to be a part of your journeys. You are the reason so many educators come to LKSD and stay. You are the reason my wife Angela and I spent our entire education careers in LKSD. I am so incredibly proud of each and every one of you and the great potential you hold. You have taught us so much.

I have been incredibly honored to serve with and by each of you for the past 28 years. I will cherish all the great memories created.

With deepest gratitude and respect,

Daniel Walker

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