Ready to take on challenges as we continue to learn, grow | Guest op

I would like to take a moment to comment on two recent articles printed in our local newspaper. As the principal of Mill Creek Middle School, I have the honor to work with almost 1,000 wonderfully diverse students and staff every day.

Mill Creek is filled with opportunities to learn, teach and grow as well as the very real challenges associated with such a large group of people coming together in a single place. But together, we do our best to work through those challenges and to take advantage of those opportunities.

Our school has been featured on the front page of the last two editions of the Kent Reporter. On May 2, five of our students were featured with their designs for a school of the future. Their work won a state competition and it was nice to see some of our great students and teachers get the recognition so many Mill Creek Bulldogs deserve.

The same reporter wrote a very different story for the front page in the May 9 edition where he editorialized that bullying was "unchecked," and even repeated an angry citizen's slur made against our student body saying the school was "full of thugs."

I am saddened to hear such negative and inflammatory reports about our students and about the folks that work very hard every day to make Mill Creek a safe and healthy place for our students. It is, and always has been, our number one goal to make sure all students feel safe and can focus on learning.

As sad as I am to hear the name calling, I am sadder still to hear that someone's Mill Creek experience would lead them to say those words. Obviously, there is some real work to be done here in our school, in our homes, and in our community. School safety is not just the job of school administrators and teachers; school safety is the responsibility of every individual, every organization, and every home in our community.

Taking matters to heart

Let me be very clear – we take every report of bullying or inappropriate behavior very seriously and work with all concerned to find safe, fair and effective resolution of all reported conflicts. Because of state and federal privacy laws, I am not at liberty to discuss the specifics of every case with the public or the press but I can say to you we are always focused on student safety, take intentional and appropriate actions when challenging events occur, and are committed to the continuous improvement of our operational systems in our classrooms, offices, and hallways.

Every student we serve deserves caring instruction, structured direction, thoughtful discipline and respectful opportunities for success. Our job is supporting every student where they are and then helping them get to where they want to go. Our students are not "thugs." They are members of our community right now and they will be leaders in our community in the future.

I ask the Mill Creek community to recognize the strength and goodness in our school, in our kids, in our teachers, and the work we are doing every day. While there will always be challenges, there will also be a commitment to meet those challenges, and the commitment to do what is necessary to make sure everyone enjoys a safe learning environment.

I respectfully ask for your support, your engagement and your partnership, as we continue to do our jobs of successfully preparing each and every student for their futures.

As one of the students featured in the May 2 story said about her team's project, "We really are into what we are doing and we actually care about this stuff. ..."

At Mill Creek, we really care about each and every kid and are working hard to provide a safe and respectful school community where students learn the skills for success.

Reach Sherilyn Ulland, Mill Creek Middle School principal, at 253-373-7446 or Sherilyn.Ulland@kent.k12.wa.us.

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