our journey

Committed to building a culturally inclusive, anti-racist organization

The Puyallup people lived here long before and during the colonization of the Americas and the westward expansion of the United States. We recognize these indigenous people of the Salish Sea, their displacement, dispossession, and continued presence. As we reflect on the past and move to the future, let us be reminded that our school district sits within the traditional lands of the Puyallup people. To honor our indigenous community members and neighbors, we are aspiring to be good stewards by:

  • celebrating those who came before us, who brought us together in this place at this time;

  • caring for this land so that those who come after us may also enjoy its gifts;

  • creating respectful, inclusive, anti-racist space;

  • nourishing our students' bodies, hearts and minds so they may become what they dream for themselves and continue the tradition of telling our collective story.

Do you know whose land you stand upon? Please visit Native Land to learn more.

purpose of this website

The purpose of this site is to document the collective efforts of our school district to become an anti-racist organization. It covers the first seven years of our focused work and these pages attempt to capture pieces of our long journey as a district. While it highlights much of our work over time, it is impossible to capture all that has transpired across our district in multiple layers over the last several years. Although there is broad support for our racial equity efforts across our community, the work has not been without controversy and disagreement along the way. To our students, our staff, our families, our community members and our consultants, we are grateful for all that you have done and continue to do to move this critical work forward.

why racial equity?

We want to raise the opportunity and achievement of all students while narrowing the gaps between our priority equity groups. Our data, both quantitative and qualitative, showed that we had significant gaps between students identifying as students of color and students identifying as white, non Hispanic. Essentially, the educational experiences of these student subgroups varied significantly, with students of color more at risk of falling behind, disproportionately underrepresented in college preparatory classes and activities, over identified for support programs, disproportionately disciplined and more likely to disengage from school. Student survey data and interviews also strongly indicated that racial bias and bigotry was ever present in our schools. The evidence demonstrated very clearly that we were not effectively addressing the mission and objectives of our strategic plan. The commitment to racial equity, and more explicitly the work of developing anti-racist policies and practices is a core value of our district. We embrace this critical work of equity and excellence. While some of our work has evolved more quickly into actionable items, other aspects of the work will always be ongoing. We want to ensure that all students know they are heard, see themselves reflected throughout their studies, and feel that they belong and have something important to contribute to our shared community.

Strategic Plan new as of February 2022

Our promise: Every student is welcomed, known, and treasured, and graduates confident and competent to thrive in a future they imagine.

Our goals:

1. Every student will develop curiosity, social-emotional skills, the ability to think and reason, and a joy of learning.

2. Every student will feel safe, supported, and engaged as learners; empowered to use their voice to advocate for equitable treatment and social justice; and grow as informed global citizens.

3. Every student will own their learning, display creativity and confidence in problem-solving, and demonstrate competence in core learning standards.

4. Every student will successfully navigate ALL critical transitions in their schooling, and will acquire the confidence and competence for success during and after their formal schooling years.

Board Policy 3212

Educational and Racial Equity Policy . . . develop procedures and practices that seek to eliminate barriers and ensure racial equity. These procedures and practices will seek to:

  • Raise the opportunity and achievement of all students while narrowing the gaps between the highest and lowest achieving students;

  • Promote representative diversity of access to and participation in academic courses, activities and school events,

  • Ensure adoption of culturally diverse instructional materials and lessons,

  • Ensure ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of racial equity initiatives through review of assessment data, surveys, focus groups, and other means.

  • Ensure all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, or class, graduate from the District prepared to succeed in a racially and culturally diverse local, national, and global community.”

Prior to 2015-16: disjointed acts of equity

While racial equity was not an explicit focal point prior to the 2015-16 school year, our district had begun the work of identifying and addressing opportunity gaps for traditionally underrepresented students. These subgroups of students included students of color, English language learners, students eligible for the free and reduced food program and students served in special education. The work was carried out by individual teachers in the classroom, counselors, Professional Learning Community teams and the learning leadership team consisting of building and district-level administrators. This work was completed under the guidance of our strategic plan which had been developed in 2012-13 and implemented in 2013-14, but was created without a racial equity lens and lacked racial equity language.

Even prior to developing the strategic plan, individuals working in our schools and across the system were focused on equity whether in the form of outreach to SeaMar for Latinx counseling services or Seattle Indian Health Board for resources for our indigenous students; recruitment of students traditionally underrepresented into classes, clubs and activities; support for students whose heritage language was not English; partnership with Consejo; family outreach and activities, particularly our elementary Latinx families who introduced the annual celebration of Día de los Muertos as well as organized other celebrations and family dinners to celebrate community; and so on. While championing equity, these were all done individually without a larger framework or a district-wide purpose.

Additionally, in 2013-14, Roxanne Lyons, curriculum director at the time, worked diligently with Sally Adam and others to bring an Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) to our island. Her work was in support of Comunidad Latina de Vashon who had been fundraising so that more Latinx families who had the need could take advantage of preschool opportunities for their children (background article). After unsuccessful attempts to recruit a community agency to take this on, Roxanne applied for and was awarded a grant on behalf of the school district to begin the program in the fall of 2014. Originally called "Mi Escuelita" the preschool opened its doors on November 3rd, 2014 for students in families with significant financial barriers. In the Beachcomber article (see link above), Roxanne Lyons was quoted, "All the kids in this preschool are going to start kindergarten ready. Their language will be more like their peers. Their school skills will be more like their peers, and their social skills will be more like their peers, who have had very, very different opportunities just because their families have more means."

a Brief timeline

We are sincerely grateful for the passion and care exhibited by our board of directors, staff, students, families and our many community partners. Our partnerships are continually evolving and growing as we work together to create an anti-racist community in the pursuit of academic excellence and success for all students.

  • March 2016, Parents and Friends for Racial Equity approach Vashon Island School District to see if Michael Soltman, superintendent, would make a commitment to do the very intentional work required to create an anti-racist educational community, specifically to see what could be done to help raise awareness and educate our students in developing an equity lens.

  • May 2016, Launched consultation and training with Dr. Nikum Pon from the Puget Sound Educational Service District and the formation of the District and Community Racial Equity Team--the team included all building and district-level administrators along with parents, community members and professionals representing Parents and Friends for Racial Equity, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), the Harbor School and Vashon Youth and Family Services (VYFS).

  • August 2016, Racial equity was the focus of the leadership retreat and the PLC leaders' summit in preparation for the year ahead.

  • October 2016, We officially launched into our racial equity work with all staff members across the district with the Teaching & Learning Forum. Dr. Pon delivers the keynote address, Engaging, Learning and Leading for Equity, and facilitated the follow up session for staff: Leading for Racial Equity: Gap Analysis.

  • Spring 2017, Vashon Schools Foundation makes a 3-year commitment to support the district's racial equity work.

  • August 2017, Dr. Pon returns to lead sessions at the Teaching & Learning Forum. He also met with our bus drivers and paraeducators.

  • September 2017, Educational and Racial Equality Policy adopted by the school board. It was revised in October 2017.

  • 2017-18, Chautauqua and McMurray formed school-based racial equity teams.

  • Fall 2018 to coincide with the school district's release of history/heritage month calendars to teaching staff, Chautauqua specialists, Tara Brenno, Erynne Smith, Amy Bogaard, Victoria Elozondo-Hopper, Alex Craighead each "adopted" a history/heritage month and planned lessons/activities for students school-wide.

  • Spring 2017, Maiah Merino, consultant, conducted student interviews with students of color.

  • 2018-19, Vashon Island High School formed a school-based racial equity team.

  • January 2019 Vashon Center for the Arts sponsored HeART Works training, Equity in the Classroom, for McMurray staff and Chautauqua specialist teachers.

  • Spring 2018, Kevin Dickerson & Stephanie Spencer engaged students in conversations about school climate.

  • January 2020, Vashon Center for the Arts sponsored HeART Works training, Equity in the Classroom, for Vashon Island High School and Chautauqua Elementary School.

  • Spring 2020, a private donor approached the Vashon Schools Foundation to continue funding for racial equity work with a $50,000 pledge to be split over two-years.

intertwined, Layers of Work

The work is often non-linear and incomplete

professional development

staff awareness, self-reflection & growth: developing the racial equity lens

culturally inclusive & responsive practices

social justice practices

social emotional learning

cultivating leadership

policy & procedure


board policy: educational and racial equity

school structures: discipline practices, access to classes & activities

instructional practices

instructional framework

instructional materials

library collections

effective feedback loops

data analysis

qualitative feedback

graduation rates


course enrollment

extra curricular participation

assessment results (growth)






community collaborators

Parents and Friends for Racial Equity on Vashon

"Our mission is to partner with Vashon Island School District and serve as a resource to help all children and families promote inclusion, racial equity and social justice, to create permanent systemic change, and to close the opportunity gap. Our goal is to teach children and their parents how to recognize and combat racism and racial discrimination, as well as engage in dialogue about race issues with respect and integrity."

Vashon-Maury Showing Up for Racial Justice

"Vashon-Maury Showing Up for Racial Justice has joined a national network of groups and individuals educating, mobilizing & organizing mostly white people in a multi-racial movement for racial justice. SURJ Action organizes in majority-white communities to grow the political base of support for racial and economic justice.

We believe

White silence stokes the racism that divides People of Color and White working class people, who have every reason to stand together for better wages, better air, affordable housing, and an end to war. We need to stand together with communities targeted for police abuse, because otherwise, we cannot build the unity we need to move forward. It is in the interest of white people to stand against this repression for our own lives and those of people we love."

Vashon Center for the Arts

"Vashon Center for the Arts, a collaborative and community-based organization, provides a center for the arts on Vashon Island, initiates quality arts experiences for all ages and creates opportunities for artists to perform and exhibit their work.

At Vashon Center for the Arts, we celebrate diversity in all aspects of the work we do and support an environment of inclusion, racial equity, and social justice in our programming and operations. We welcome all individuals to our campus and steward them with respect and dignity. We hold our patrons and all affiliates to the same standard: our home is a center for all, regardless of race, place of origin, sex, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or class."

Vashon Schools Foundation

"Vashon Schools Foundation raises funds to invest in our thriving public schools that educate and empower our island’s students. We know that exceptional education and a supportive educational environment sustain a strong community. Funding from Vashon Island residents and businesses is proof that community-powered public education can overcome significant shortfalls in Washington State education funding."

Vashon Youth & Family Services

"Vashon Youth and Family Services fosters a thriving community of emotionally healthy and resilient children, youth, adults, and families.

VYFS empowers all islanders to realize their full potential through a variety of Island-based services and comprehensive programing for children, youth, families, and individuals.

Services and programing include: Child, youth, and family counseling, seniors counseling, Hispanic and Latinx Support Services, Case Management, Substance Use Disorder assessment and treatment, homeless prevention, and emergency financial assistance."

Comunidad Latina de Vashon

"Apoyar necesidades de la comunidad latina de Vashon y

Asesorar la comunidad sobre sus derechos (sean del grupo o individuales/ civiles o laborales)

Desarollar líderes, tomando en cuenta la cultura

Cambiar la realidad de discriminación e injusticia

Tener un local donde reunir, recibir información, consultar, con identidad latina

Hacer una contribución positiva a la comunidad de Vashon.

Establecernos como comunidad con orgullo

Cambiar el aspecto de la comunidad latina en Vashon

Unir los latinos de Vashon como familia de apoyo mutuo.

Promover intercambio, entendimiento, colaboración, y respeto entre comunidades en Vashon."

The Backbone Campaign

"Backbone Campaign amplifies the aspirations of "We the People" with creative strategies and artful activism to manifest a world where life, community, nature, and our obligations to future generations are honored as sacred."

The Harbor School Race Equity Committee

Partnerships focused on Social Emotional Learning and Social Justice:




sampling of the books & articles we've engaged with as a staff

A Black Principal, Four White Teens and the ‘Senior Prank’ that Became a Hate Crime by Jessica Contrera from The Washington Post

Affluent and Black, and Still Trapped by Segregation by John Eligon and Robert Gebeloff from The New York Times, 8/20/2016

The Awkward Questions about Slavery from Tourists in US South by Ritu Prasad

Best Practices in Educational Equity, Hanover Research, April 2017

Changing the Narrative about Native Americans: A Guide for Allies by Reclaiming Native Truth

Confronting and Combatting Bias in Schools by Evie Blad

Confronting Inequality: Teacher Leadership for Equity by Adam Alvarez

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Yvette Jackson

Disrupting Inequity, Educational Leadership, November 2016, Vol. 74 No. 3

District Leaders Work to Diversify Teaching Staff from District Administration, February 2018

"Grit is in Our DNA": Why Teaching Grit in Schools is Inherently Anti-Black by Bettina L. Love

How to Do a Territorial Acknowledgment by Jordan Mae Cook

How to Facilitate Reflection, excerpt from Coaching for Equity: Conversations that Change Practice by Elena Aguilar

Inclusive Language Guide that was created by Colorado State University

Introducing Teaching Tolerance's Social Justice Standards, a road map for anti-bias education at every grade level

Lost at School by Ross Greene

Paying Attention to White Culture and Privilege: A Missing Link to Advancing Racial Equity by Gita Gulati-Partee and Magee Potapchuk

Peculiar Benefits by Roxanne Gay

Project Ready

Stop, Start, Change, Continue from Northern Arizona University Employee Development Day 2011

Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards: The Teaching Tolerance Anti-bias Framework

Ten Things Everyone Should Know about Race, California Newsreel, Race the Power of an Illusion

Think, Engage, and Act Differently by Victor Cary, 9/1/2016

Transforming Institutional Values: Revisited by Robette Ann Dias from Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training

Waging a Fight for Equity Amid Affluence by Arianna Prothero

What if I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People by Vernā Myers

What is White Privilege Really? by Cory Collins

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

White People are Still Raised to be Racially Illiterate by Robin DiAngelo