In 2001, The Bush School and The Board of Trustees embarked on an ambitious fundraising campaign and raised philanthropic support for new facilities, the endowment, enhanced programs, and other proper Board-designated purposes.
Head of School Priorities: Dr. Percy L. Abram
Each year, the Head of School’s Office and the Senior Leadership Team set curricular priorities for the school. In the 2019-2020 school year, we focused on three areas in particular: civics education, supporting student affinity groups, and technology pedagogy. What follows are stories about these foci that were supported by your philanthropy. These priorities, and so many others, would not be possible without donor support.Civics Education:
This year, History Day was one of the last Upper School events that took place prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent school closures issued by Governor Jay Inslee. On March 4, Nancy Bowman, Upper School Civic Teacher, organized History Day, inviting members of the broader Seattle community to explore local and regional history, issues of social justice, and avenues for civic engagement.
Fifty-minute sessions were held on the Upper School campus, and the keynote address was delivered in Schuchart Gym by Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson of Pierce County Superior Court. The robust line-up of speakers included experts in their respective fields of law, policy, and community organizing:History offerings
Social Justice offerings
- Stephanie Johnson-Toliver from the Black Heritage Society on Black history in Washington State
- Nina Wallace and Caitlin Oiye from Densho on Japanese American internment and how the Japanese community (and other marginalized/oppressed communities) can and should tell their stories and determine the historical narrative
- Cori Tingstad ’14 on redlining and segregation in Seattle, past and present
- Rahul Gupta from the Wing Luke Museum–on the 1886 Chinese Riots
Political/Governance/Civic Engagement offerings
- Tiffany Lamoreaux of Solid Ground on anti-racism
- Judge Frank Cuthbertson of Pierce County Superior Court on the decriminalization of mental illness
- Austin Jenkins, political reporter out of Olympia for local NPR stations
- Lisa Ayrault of FairVote Washington about the merits and drive for ranked choice voting here and across the nation
- Common Purpose, dedicated to ending voter suppression and ensuring voter rights and participation
- Osta Davis ’09 part of the Democratic Campaign Committee in the Washington State House
- Omar Cuevas Vega of the State Poverty Action Network, storytelling for advocacy
In a year ripe for political engagement, History Day illuminated the diverse ways in which students can be civically engaged and effect positive social changes in their local communities.Supporting Student Affinity Groups:
Another way that our students build community is through clubs and affinity groups. Clubs are largely defined as interest groups: anyone with an interest in a theme or activity can participate. Affinity groups are spaces where participants must all share an identity that connects them.
In the Upper School, there are more than forty student-led clubs and affinity groups focused on issues of human rights and exploring racial identity.
The Bush School is proud to be mission-driven and student-led. I am especially proud of the work of Blazers Understanding Whiteness (BUW) this year. With the recent increase of conversations around anti-racism and white identity, Upper School students wanted to re-imagine their anti-racist group from White Students Combatting Racism to Blazers Understanding Whiteness (BUW). Two students, Celia and Louise, recently put together a letter to the Upper School with this information. In their words, here is what BUW is and how it has evolved:
What is BUW?
BUW is a space for white people to educate ourselves about whiteness as an identity and culture rather than a societal default. The burden of the education of white people has fallen on people of color for far too long, and our goal is to help Bush students and faculty dig into our own whiteness and the feelings that come with it. We work hard to maintain a sense of transparency and accountability by keeping public notes of our meetings and collaborating with race-based affinity groups and qualified professionals (people of color paid to do race work).
How has BUW evolved?
Two years ago, we decided Bush’s previous anti-racist group, White Students Combatting Racism (WSCR), was not serving the community, so we got to work on how to improve it. We sent out forms to the student body and got feedback about how the group had functioned in the past. Many students voiced concerns about an all-white space, as well as worry that WSCR had “white savior” motives, since racial progress has never been spearheaded by white people and the dismantling of racist systems cannot be done by white people alone. After hearing how people felt, we made some changes. First, after a four-month process of in-depth conversation, research, and reflection, we found a new name that we thought better suited our motives: Blazers Understanding Whiteness. We also changed our mission and focus to better fit the role of white community members and the needs of The Bush School.
The student and adult catalysts working on these issues now and in the decades prior have created a true learning environment, improving their practices to best support their peers. This affinity group continued to meet, even through remote schooling.
The ability for students to meet, for classes to continue, and for teachers to troubleshoot, largely depends on our incredible Technology team, led by Director Ethan Delavan.
Earlier this year, Ethan spoke about the importance of technology as a measurement of literacy in our society today. Especially during this exceptional time, technology has provided a platform to connect, learn, perform, and practice safely.
“Technology really is now where literacy was maybe 200 years ago, where all of a sudden it's become something that's really important for all of us to know at some level and have some real competencies in technology. And it is the basis of human interaction in a globalized society.”
Some technology performs better depending on the need of the user. Part of the challenge for the Bush Tech team is not only the increase in need, but the increase in expertise on the numerous platforms that exist for educators today.
In addition to actual learning content, Bush teachers needed to recreate an environment that was comfortable for learning. Social emotional learning can help build that environment, even in a virtual classroom, by creating connections and community. The way technology and support was leveraged to empower our community is inspiring. Additionally, Ethan spoke to the ways that their team, teachers, and staff, address some of these challenges by asking a lot of questions.
“It’s not that each teacher needed to come to the same answer. Each teacher came to a lot of different answers. And the way you do a physical education class might be really different than the way you do a biology class at a distance. But if you start asking those same questions about student experience, you tend to really deepen the kind of learning that happens remotely and still maintain a really experiential focus for students.”
In the years ahead, technology will continue to be an important aspect in creating a rich learning environment for our students. As Ethan shared, and as our school community has demonstrated, technology extends far beyond the physical laptops, cords, and routers; there is a strategic pedagogy that under girds our effort to educate our students and support our faculty.
From technology pedagogy, supporting student affinity groups, and engaging civics education curriculum, our entire community grew from these innovative experiences. Your support of the endowment and strategic priorities ensures that our school continues to thrive, no matter how difficult the circumstances. This past year has shown us that we are stronger when we collaborate and imagine together, and this is made possible by commitment of philanthropy to The Bush School.