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Superintendent's Messages

  • June Message

    Posted by Elle Warmuth at 6/9/2017

    The celebration of graduation is in the air!   Every year, I look forward to watching our high school students enter the arena dressed in their caps and gowns, with Pomp and Circumstance playing in the background.  After nearly 20 years in education, the song and ceremony never gets old. It represents hard work, determination and opportunities.


    This year, about 700 students will graduate from the Sumner School District ready for career, college and life! I’m proud of each and every senior who will walk across the stage, and I take pride in the 1,200 staff members who helped make it happen. It’s a team effort I call “Turning the Tassel Together.”


    I recently dusted off my high school diploma from Rogers High School and reflected on the meaning of the accomplishment. While post-secondary education for me continues, I wouldn’t be where I am today without that high school diploma. It’s a crucial stepping stone not to be discounted, but honored for life.


    Whether one’s formal education continues or if this is the culmination, the high school diploma will open many doors for this year’s graduates. From dreams of becoming diesel mechanics to neurosurgeons, the opportunities for our students are endless. Our Spartans and Panthers will go on to do great things and make a difference in our community and around the world.

    I hope all families, partners and community members can take pride and celebrate in our graduates’ success together.   


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  • May Message

    Posted by Sarah Gillispie at 5/1/2017

    We’re on the home stretch with graduation just around the corner. In anticipation of this exciting time of year, I can’t think about graduation without
    acknowledging our hard-working and dedicated staff, who are integral in that momentous turning of the tassel.


    From the precious beginnings in preschool through the tenacious times in middle school up to the culmination of graduation, it’s our staff who in so many ways positively affect each student academically, socially and emotionally.


    Just in one school day alone, students interact with many staff members who in one way or another contribute to student success. It’s the bus driver in the morning, the child nutrition worker at lunch, the club advisor after school and the many staff in between who have lifelong impact.


    Our 1,200 staff members commit their heart and soul to a collective focus on the ultimate why we do what we do: graduation.


    Do you want a tug at your heartstrings? I encourage everyone to watch a series of short videos centered simply on two words: “thank you.” These
    videos will give you a personal and emotional glimpse into the heart of a teacher and their impact on students. View the videos at www.sumnersd.org.


    Please remember, as a community, we all a have a role and can make a difference in the education and well-being of every student.

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  • April Message

    Posted by Sarah Gillispie at 4/5/2017

    Remember naming your first car, or a beloved family pet?


    Names mean so much to us. Which is why your Sumner School District Board of Directors considered for some time their recent decision to propose a district name change: The Sumner-Bonney Lake School District.


    I’d like to take this month’s column to share with you just a few of the reasons why now is the right time for us to change our name:


    • Today, more than twice as many students we serve live in Bonney Lake than in Sumner.  In fact, continued growth on the plateau will mean even more families served by our district will live in or near Boney Lake.
    • The proposed new name aligns with other district-affiliated organizations, including the Sumner -Bonney Lake Family Center and the Sumner-Bonney Lake Education Foundation.

    • One of the hallmarks of our district – and one of the four goals in our VISION 2020 Strategic Plan – is partnerships. Bonney Lake is an important community partner, and the support of city officials, civic organizations and citizens from this city has been significant. The School Board believes it’s vital to recognize this commitment and to continue to work closely with Bonney Lake, Sumner and all the communities in the district, now and as we make VISION 2020 a reality.


    Change, I know, can also be difficult. Please take a few moments to learn more about this proposal by visiting www.sumnersd.org.


    I also invite you to attend the public hearing about the name change, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 12 in the District Board Room, 1202 Wood Ave. in Sumner.


    With supportive parents and the welcoming communities that help us, I’m excited about what the future holds for our students.

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  • March Message

    Posted by Sarah Gillispie at 2/28/2017

    This month I’m sharing the fourth and final goal of the district’s VISION 2020 strategic plan: Resource Management.

    Simply put, managing our resources efficiently and effectively ensures that all aspects of our district runs smoothly, directly impacting student success and our bottom line – graduation.

    What are our resources? Money, buildings, technology and staff. Without them, our students can’t learn, feel safe or become productive members of society.

    Here’s a high-level overview of only some of the actions we’ll take to reach this goal:

    • Facilities: Open and maintain new and current facilities on time and on budget while continually seeking ways to maximize operational efficiencies.

    • Finance: Manage the district’s finances to maximize student opportunities with a balanced budget.

    • Technology: Update and refine Technology Plan to include early learning, greater access to WiFi, higher bandwidth, Chromebook Take-Home program and emergency/incident planning.

    • Human Resources: Improve recruiting and hiring processes, resulting in employing highly-skilled, satisfied staff who receive effective orientation, professional learning and support.

    • Environmental Sustainability: Optimize energy resources to reduce ongoing operational costs.

    I continue to be excited about our newly-developed strategic plan, Vision 2020. Its purpose guides our work in improving our high-performing status.

    For a recap of all of our goals – Academics, Safety, Partnerships, Resource Management – the actions we’ll take and our measurements of success, go to www.sumnersd.org/VISION2020.


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  • February Message

    Posted by Sarah Gillispie at 2/1/2017

    “It takes a village to raise a child.” While this proverb has been used many times, in many ways, it stands tried and true with the Sumner School District. As I continue my series outlining the district’s strategic plan, VISION 2020, I focus this month on our goal of partnerships.


    Who is our village?
    Our village is you ― those who live and work in the Sumner and Bonney Lake communities. It’s our partners and volunteers, who commit time, money and resources to ensure the success of every student.


    I’m grateful for our more than 1,600 registered volunteers and vast number of community, business, faith and higher education partners. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. It’s because of them, that I can celebrate our district’s continuous high standing in the state for test scores, graduation rates and highly-qualified teachers.


    Our village in action
    The stories are endless for how our partners and volunteers are instrumental in helping our students walk across the stage donning that coveted cap and gown. From use of the YMCA’s pool for disabled students to a dental office’s free checkups, there are many ways these activities directly relate to academic success.


    Here are just some general examples of how we use partners and volunteers to contribute to the success of our students:

    • Tutors and mentors
    • Job interview training
    • School and classroom volunteers
    • Career Day speakers
    • Donate school supplies
    • Facilitate group activities
    • Serve on advisory committees


    Join our village
    For those of you already a part of our village – thank you! You’re making a difference! For those with an interest in finding ways to partner and volunteer, we’re here to help you find the right fit that matches your skills, expertise and passion.


    My ultimate goal, and how partnerships and every part of VISION 2020 ties together, is for a 100 percent graduation rate by the year 2020. I’d love your help to make that happen!

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  • January Message

    Posted by Elle Warmuth at 1/3/2017

    In the Sumner School District, promoting a healthy, safe, and supportive learning environment for students is a primary goal in our strategic plan: Vision 2020.  As a school district, we break safety in two distinct categories; physical safety and emotional safety. Historically, schools have primarily paid more attention to the physical safety of students rather than the emotional safety. Now, both elements are given equal attention because we know that when you create an atmosphere of safety and respect, learning will follow.  


    We work in close partnership with local law enforcement, public safety and county emergency management to prepare for emergency conditions in our schools. Members of these organizations train district staff and review emergency plans. We are confident that our system for managing school emergency situations provides students and staff with plans they can access for a variety of emergency situations. Having a plan is critical, practicing the plan is essential! Therefore, every school in our district participates in drills that allow students and staff to practice response procedures on a monthly basis. Thanks to our voters, money from our 2016 bond includes safety features, repairs and upgrades at all campuses to ensure that every student is kept safe while at school.  

    In addition to physical safety, we are also committed to creating and maintaining emotionally-safe learning environments where students thrive academically and socially. Our goal is for students to feel safe and respected without the fear of being bullied. To help us reach our goal of creating emotionally-safe learning environments, our staff use a variety of social emotional learning programs such as: Second Step, Steps to Respect and Kelso’s Choices. All three of these programs provide students with the skills to recognize and manage their emotions, establish positive relationships and make responsible decisions. In addition to these programs, we offer mental health counseling and provide students access to drug and alcohol counselors.

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  • December Message

    Posted by Sarah Gillispie at 12/5/2016

    Sumner School District is in the business of educating students, helping them graduate and guiding them onto career or college. Like any business, we need goals, benchmarks and a plan to achieve at the highest level possible.  Our newly developed strategic plan “Vision 2020: Focused on Student Success” identifies four areas of focus for increased student success.  With a laser-like focus on (1) Academics, (2) Safety, (3) Partnerships, and (4) Resource Management our district is positioned with measurable goals and strategies to help our students graduate and prepare them for the future.


    I believe that this Strategic Plan for 2016 - 2020 will ensure continuous improvement, focus energy and talents within the district, assess our direction, ensure that everyone is working toward the same goals, respond to a changing environment and, most importantly, prepare our students for the future.


    These four areas of focus include a series of specific measurable steps that clearly articulate the work that needs to be accomplished, as well as annual guidelines to ensure that we are all working together to continuously improve our system in order to meet the needs of all students. These objectives will also inform budget development, as well as increase public understanding of the school system’s needs and responsibilities.


    Academic excellence is our primary goal and the cornerstone of our mission and purpose.  By providing equitable access to a rigorous, standards-based education we will eliminate disparities among all groups to ensure each student meets or exceeds state and district standards, graduates on time and is career or college ready.  


    One of the ways we measure student learning is through state assessments.  When students demonstrate their understanding of a subject matter it helps us gauge and adjust teaching practices for optimal results.  The below table shows the percent of students who are at or above standard and the district targeted goal at the end of each school year through 2020.  


    English Language Arts




















































    In addition to monitoring state assessments, we plan to increase academic rigor by offering more Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes at high school as well as expecting 100% of our secondary students to have a personalized post-high school career or educational plan. These goals will provide students with increased opportunities to pursue interests and gain real-world skills and experiences to prepare them for success after high school.  


    Next month, my article will discuss the Safety portion of Vision 2020 wherein you’ll  become more familiar with our goals for social/emotional and physical safety.   


    Please visit our website for further information.

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  • November Message

    Posted by Sarah Gillispie at 11/2/2016

    The Sumner School District is proud to announce a new comprehensive four-year strategic plan called Vision 2020: Focused on Student Success.  Vision 2020 is a blueprint for student academic success.  It represents the work and dedication of many people, including community leaders, parents and students who gave generously of their time and expertise. Beginning in March, SSD leaders and representatives of all our stakeholders met each month to build this document - a clear and concise plan that calls on the entire community to be involved in the ongoing process of providing students with a high-quality education that prepares them for success beyond high school. Vision 2020 is the result of months of work involving students, parents, teachers, other school staff, administrators, members of the Board of Education, local business owners, members of faith communities, and other community stakeholders.  In keeping with our goal to increase partnerships and community involvement, Vision 2020 has opportunities for everyone in our community to help students achieve at even higher levels.


    The plan includes four areas of focus: Academics, Safety, Partnerships and Resource Management.   Each area of focus contains specific measurable goals that will be monitored on a continual basis.  Progress toward each goal will be communicated to the public on our website under the Vision 2020 section.  


    The Sumner School District is a high performing district. In 2015, our district outperformed the state average in every tested area. Our graduation rates continue to climb, we send students to some of the best universities in the nation and more students than ever are receiving industry recognized certificates.  Given our success as a school district, you may wonder why we need a new strategic plan to guide us. The answer is simple: We have to continually improve. Our students and our community deserve no less.  A strategic plan keeps us heading in the right direction toward student academic achievement and provides you with a solid return on investment.  A strategic plan is like a compass, and everything we do, or consider doing, is subject to that compass. Every plan, program or new initiative is looked at according to whether it keeps us on the right path to student success which includes how we allocate our financial resources; every item in our budget should be in support of Vision 2020.


    Vision 2020 was created with the belief that the education of children is the concern of the entire community.  Over the next several months in my superintendent message, you'll become more familiar with each aspect of Vision 2020.  I believe that creating a collaborative educational environment builds a community of caring people all working toward a common goal: student success.  I encourage you to read my articles and see where you can best commit your talents and time in support of that effort.

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  • October Message

    Posted by Sarah Gillispie at 10/5/2016

    Our district is harnessing the power of the internet by bringing teachers, students, and parents together through technology.  The widespread use of Chromebooks and Google Apps in the district is providing real-time, collaborative learning environments that are engaging students and impacting performance.  It’s an exciting time to be a student in the Sumner School District!


    New this year, a Chromebook take-home program was launched for students in grades 6 through 12.  Just like a textbook, students are assigned a digital device that they can use at school and home all year round.  This means learning doesn’t end in the classroom.


    As I visit schools and classrooms, collaborative learning is happening in amazing tech environments.  Elementary students are often asked to write a paragraph on a chosen topic and post it to their Google Drive.  Students then share the document with their teacher and receive ongoing feedback about sentence structure and word choice in real time - while writing.  This technology provides an opportunity to correct  and teach without the traditional red pen markup that has happened in the past.  Rough drafts are no longer papers that are submitted, but a process in which teachers can guide students through the entire writing assignment.


    Also impressive is the Google Drive’s auto-save feature that keeps a revision history where students can see earlier versions of their work at any point in time.  This is especially significant for teachers in that it gives them the ability to view earlier versions of student work to see if concepts are being understood and adjust teaching methods – real time - where needed.   


    The district is not only engaging students with technology, but parents.  The Google Drive gives students the ability to create, save, store and share school work all in one place.  An internet connection is all that is needed to access a student’s google drive from any device.  This gives parents the ability to view current student work and ongoing classroom assignments anywhere at any time.    


    Sumner School District students are engaging and connecting with technology in ways that we have never done before.  Our voter-approved Technology Levy has allowed us to put a Chromebook in the hands of every student, every day, in every classroom.  With digital devices in the hands of every student, a world of infinite resources are available.

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  • Welcome Back!

    Posted by Sarah Gillispie at 9/1/2016

    This year we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Sumner School District. Who could have imagined what was in store for future citizens of Sumner and Bonney Lake when the first settlers made their way to “Stuck Junction,” now known as Sumner. In wagon trains and with fierce determination, early settlers crossed the Cascade Range and settled an agricultural land that produced daffodils, rhubarb, hops and berries.


    The Sumner School District was there from the beginning, educating the town’s youngest residents at Sumner School, a grand, three-story building graced with a bell tower.  From those humble beginnings, the values that make our school district special took root.


    The way in which we educate the children of this community has changed substantially over the years. Since the late 1800s, we’ve gone from using slate chalkboards to interactive wireless whiteboards and Chromebooks. Gone are the days when research was conducted by combing through volumes of encyclopedias. Digital devices give us instant information which constantly transform the way we teach and learn. Even with these changes, our history and values remain strong in educating every student, every day, in every classroom. It’s these roots that make the Sumner School District different, special and strong.


    After 125 years of excellence, there is much to celebrate! The Sumner School District is known as an award-winning school district with increased graduation rates and strong partnerships with community and families. Academic, extracurricular and athletic programs continue to win awards and receive national recognition for outstanding performance. The staff of the Sumner School District is committed to the personal success of every child. Their unparalleled dedication keep our roots strong and values intact.


    As we journey into the future, we have a laser-like focus on student success using a comprehensive strategic plan, Vision 2020: Focused on Student Success. Vision 2020 will guide all planning, fiscal decision-making and student achievement efforts so every student is prepared for career, college and life.  Our legacy of excellence and vision for success will continue to support a quality education that reaffirms our students are our greatest asset.

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