Washougal School District and AASA, The School Superintendents Association co-hosted a cohort of public education leaders from across the nation this week in Washougal, Washington. Innovative Districts Empowering All Learners (IDEAL) Cohort participants examined best practices in future-driven education through student-led school tours, a student voice panel, and workshops. Visiting leaders in education experienced first-hand the ways that Washougal School District centers student voice in school and district decision making.

In a session on Tuesday, March 28, cohort participants discussed school culture and programs with six Washougal High School student leaders. Students, staff, and visitors spoke openly about the impact that the student voice has had on school board decisions and school culture. Among the student leadership and voice programs discussed were the Student Advisory Panel, a group of high school students who represent student interests at school board work sessions, and the Ambassador program, a partnership with Unite! Washougal for student-to-student mentorship. “We’ve started something good with the ambassador program,” said Dawson Sprinkle, student at Washougal High School.

Visiting leaders also experienced school life at student-led tours of Washougal High School and Hathaway Elementary School on Monday, March 27. Students toured participants through American Sign Language, Sports Medicine, and Computer Science classes at Washougal High School. The tour also stopped in the high school career center to speak with Career Specialist Kathy Scobba and in the cafeteria to meet WSD Chef Jonathan Curiel. At Hathaway Elementary School, 5th grade student leaders guided participants through bustling classrooms at the school. “Student voice gives an important perspective on school, and being listened to makes you feel valued,” said Reece Prynne, 5th grade student at Hathaway Elementary School.

Student practices using a stethoscope and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) in Sports Medicine class at Washougal High School. This was one stop on the AASA site tour at Washougal High School.

“The IDEAL cohort is comprised of outstanding school district leaders who are building cultures and systems in order to provide access and opportunity for our young learners to thrive,” said David R. Schuler, executive director, AASA. “We are grateful to Superintendent Mary Templeton and her team for hosting our spring cohort meeting at this critical time in public education.”

By the end of the two-day visit, the IDEAL Cohort gained a deeper understanding of how Washougal School District creates dynamic learning environments, prioritizes student voice, and leverages community partnerships to best serve students with innovative programs that meet student needs. “It feels like we really are coming together and listening to one another,” said Washougal High School student Daisha Paz-Mendoza at the IDEAL Cohort student voice session.

WHS students hosted school leaders for a student panel

“This cohort represents an opportunity to bring like-minded leaders together to learn about finding solutions to best fit the needs of our students and to make sure they are rising academically,” said Templeton. “Washougal School District was honored to serve as the host district for this important meeting as attendees who are thinking critically about instruction saw firsthand how we are supporting the whole child. The superintendents and their teams who took part in our site visit are making great strides in their respective communities.”

Washougal Schools was recognized by AASA last year as a Learning 2025 Lighthouse Demonstration System in the area of social emotional and cognitive growth and is serving as a model of positive forward motion in public education in a bold movement toward creating a meaningful and relevant experience for the students of our nation’s schools.