School board links with community to discuss student readiness

School board links with community to discuss student readiness
Posted on 02/08/2018

In an effort to prepare Lynden High School students for life beyond high school, the Lynden School Board went to one source to gather information: the local business community.

In the first of a series of community meetings hosted by the board, Steve Jilk, board president, says they invited key members of the local business community, along with representatives from Bellingham Technical College and Whatcom Community College, to discuss what local businesses and technical employers search for from a student coming out of high school and entering the job market. 

“I was really pleased with the folks we were able to get in for that discussion,” Jilk says. “We had a broad range.”

One of the leading responses from the business owners, operators and key personnel wasn’t so much that they needed specific technical skills, but more that they desired students to have a working understanding of the commitment they make to employers, could communicate and work with others and have a willingness to train as they move through the job (not expecting to start at the top).

“A lot of it is attitude,” Jilk says, “and understating your commitment. I was really surprised that a couple local companies are open to hiring students who have a commitment to work, an ability to communicate and an understanding they need to be able to manage their own time and resources and that they will hire those people and then train them.”

Business leaders encouraged Lynden Schools to continue concentrating on core academic foundations, focusing on a solid base of math, science and more, but also with strong personal skills, from how a business works to how to work with others.

“It really reinforced my thinking that what we are talking about with career and college ready is more than making sure they get through pre-calc before they graduate,” Jilk says, “but is about becoming a good citizen.”

Moving forward, the board will continue to ask the same questions, but to varying groups. The next session brings together current Lynden students nearing graduation and recent graduates to ask them now that they are out of school—or nearing graduation—what they would change in terms of curriculum and support opportunities.

“This is really an opportunity to engage with folks and we just really want to hear from them,” Jilk says. “We are here to make decisions, but the more we can gather in terms of input from people in the community, the better our decisions will be. It really provides me with a learning opportunity and I am hoping we will continue this kind of dialogue with the community well past these meetings.”