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    A New Mission and Vision

    By Justin Kalm, Orca PTSA Building Leadership Team Rep.


    I’m one of the parent representatives on Orca’s Building Leadership Team (BLT). The BLT is primarily responsible for drafting, maintaining, and updating the school’s Continuous School Improvement Plan (CSIP). Every in Seattle Public Schools (SPS) [I promise that’s the last acronym I’m going to throw at you today] has a CSIP, which is supposed to identify the school’s strengths and deficiencies, and detail measurable plans to address the deficiencies. The BLT drafts the CSIP and submits it to SPS. SPS then uses the CSIP to gauge how well the school is meeting it goals.


    The first part of every CSIP is a statement of the school’s mission and vision. A school’s mission and vision statement can be a rote exercise, a bland, generic statement, meant to sound good but unconnected in any concrete way with the school’s actual programs, or it can be a deliberate, carefully crafted reflection of the school community’s most fervent hopes, designed to be the DNA that serves as the fundamental building blocks of all the school’s programs. Our BLT is firmly invested in making sure that our mission and vision statement is of the latter variety. But more than that, our BLT is invested in making sure that the mission and vision come from and are owned by the Orca community.


    Because Orca is an option school, SPS has granted us the special freedom to be different and to have a particular focus. But, as our kids learn in Kindergarten, with freedom comes responsibility. As an option school, we have the responsibility to thoughtfully craft our identity as a school, to make that identity a source of enrichment for our children, and to convince the community at large of the benefits of that identity. Orca’s founders and the past Orca school community have bequeathed us their mission, vision, motto, and pillars, along with their hopes and dreams. Now it is our turn to renew them, and infuse them with our own hopes and dreams.


    Over the next five months, the BLT, helped by the PTSA, will lead the effort to redraft our mission, vision, statement of principles (or pillars), and perhaps even our motto. It will be a multi-phased process with multiple opportunities for everyone in the Orca community to make their voices heard.


    The first and second phases, involving defining roles and gathering data have already begun. The mission and vision surveys that you took earlier in the year will be summarized and used as a starting point for what we hope will be a lively and open community conversation at the next PTSA general meeting, on Tuesday, February 6th, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Dinner and childcare will be provided for that event. We will also be discussing the mission and vision with the families who come to the National African American Parent Involvement Day [which is known by an acronym, but I promised] on February 16th. Those are just a couple of the opportunities to provide impact during this phase.


    The third phase, development and drafting will take place during March. Then in April, draft statements will be presented to the school community to gather feedback. In May the feedback received will be incorporated as the drafting team develops the final draft. Finally, at the May 30th staff meeting and the June 5th PTSA general meeting, we will meet to ratify the final draft.


    With everyone’s active participation in the process, the renewed guiding documents we will have at the end of the year will reinvigorate our community and help make Orca a beacon to those who believe that public education can be flexible enough to adapt to the needs of every child.

    Upcoming Events Calendar


    Don’t miss these upcoming Orca and Orca PTSA events:


    Saturday, January 20th.................. Family and Community Summit, 8am-4pm (Aki Kurose Middle School)

    Saturday, January 20th.................. Option School Choice Fair, 10am-2pm (Mercer Middle School)

    Tuesday, January 30th.................. Inclusion Committee Meeting, 6:30-8pm (Orca Library)

    Wednesday, January 31st............. Day between Semesters – No School

    Tuesday, February 6th.................. PTSA General Meeting (Mission and Vision), 6-8pm (Orca Cafeteria)

    Friday, February 16th.................... National African American Parent Involvement Day, TBA


    View and subscribe to the entire calendar at:


    Salmon Cycle Continues: A Study in Science, Ecology and Society

    by Laura Grow, Garden/Environmental Education Liaison to PTSA Board,

    If you want to read this article in Spanish please email the garden liaison or see the bulletin board in front of the office.
    Si desea este artículo en español, envíe un correo electrónico a o vea el tablón de anuncios enfrente de la oficina.


    “Over winter break I became a dad!” exclaims Anthony at the start of class. 

    “Really! Wow! Congratulations,” exclaim the third grade students.

    “To two hundred Salmon eggs,” says Anthony smiling as he reveals the fish tank.

    Baby salmon 

    The salmon are back! Each year Orca students connect to the environmental sciences through observation and care for salmon eggs until they become the fry that get released in Lake Washington. This process connects them to the greater web of Pacific Northwest ecology and cultures. 


    As young scholars the connection is a joyous and a basic connection to the life cycles, art and beauty of the salmon. As the students spiral up through the grade levels their investigations and understanding of the role of salmon gets deeper. They make board games with the challenges that salmon face in surviving as a species and in maintaining genetic diversity. They may write letters to the Department of Interior on the importance of salmon and the hopes that as we protect salmon we also protect our people and finally officially recognize the Duwamish People. Or this year students in upper grades are using illustrations/cartoons to tell the story of salmon. 


    By raising and releasing salmon Orca students are not only studying a single species, but people, culture, and the environment. By understanding salmon our students have one more very personal connection as they learn about climate change and climate justice.


    At the January Race Forum Dr. Tanisha Brandon-Felder led on workshop on “Windows and Mirrors” that presented tools and strategies that parents, staff, and students can use to analyze whether books, films, and classrooms reflect their culturally diverse and inclusive experiences as well as give authentic views into the world around them. Orca K-8 takes this work very seriously and with Head Teacher Donte Felder’s leadership Orca K-8 will be one of the pilot schools in the new Seattle Public Schools ethnic studies curriculum.    


    As the Garden and Environmental Liaison to the PTSA board, my role is in part to make sure our environmental education programs offer mirrors and windows for our students while working for environmental justice, equity, and social change. We want our programs to be relevant and culturally responsive. Please give me feedback on what is working and also how to strengthen our programs and let me know how you want to be involved in this work! 


    Ms. Ilyasah Shabazz, the third daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, was in Seattle last week for the City of Seattle’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Unity. She reminded us all of the African proverb that “It takes a village to raise a child.” At Orca K-8 families, teachers, staff, community, and students are a part of this village. Thanks for being here. Hope to see you at the next PTSA meeting! Race Forum, Inclusion Committee, and/or Garden Work Party! Also, all classrooms should have a garden volunteer, but currently most don’t. Can you help? It entails spending about 45 minutes a week assisting Anthony during your student’s garden class. You don’t need to be a gardener to volunteer, just willing to help with lesson preparation and supply maintenance, which includes making sure dishes are cleaned between classes and tools stored safely. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the students in a joyous learning environment. It is a great opportunity for our students to see caring adults mentoring them and working alongside them.


    “We All Belong” at the MLK Day March!

    By Krista and Lucas Hansen


    One of the many special things I love about Orca is the annual tradition of doing a march through the neighborhood, celebrating the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Friday before the MLK Day weekend. And yet for my family, the march has been a bittersweet event every year. On the one hand, it is beautiful to see kids and parents and teachers marching/parading through the community paying homage to Dr. King with messages of everything from “love everyone” at the kindergarten level up to more politically specific statements, like Black Lives Matter signs, from the older kids. But we’ve always struggled with feeling left behind as the march moves too quickly and down an inaccessible route so that we can’t keep up while pushing a wheelchair, and other kids in wheelchairs have not been able to participate at all. For a while, I felt like it was just a few of us cringing at the irony of kids carrying signs with “We All Belong” crayoned large, while the march planners left everyone in wheelchairs behind.

    One of the things I love about Orca is the deep commitment to learning and listening and growing on the part of so many parents, teachers, and staff. We raised the issue of inclusion – at the march and other school-wide events – and found others who were committed to making Orca a more inclusive school for kids with disabilities. Some of us formed the “Inclusion Committee,” others have worked on inclusion through the PTSA, while teachers and staff have embraced disability learning and inclusion in their classrooms and the Orca library.

    To make the march more inclusive this year, it took a lot of us coming together to figure out how to make it possible. Since the route is too steep for wheelchairs part of the way, a key to the accessibility was having the PTSA fund buses for all the kids with mobility difficulties. Then there was the day-of march coordination – making sure the walkers and the kids on buses managed to merge to march and roll together along the flat section.  Some committed parents and teachers managed to hold the enthusiasm of young marchers in place long enough at the meeting point for the buses to unload. And so it happened — down Rainier Avenue marched and rolled, an Orca community that really looked like We All Belong!

    My son Lucas was happy about being part of the march, and especially about having his friend Sadie as a buddy on the bus and through the march. Lucas wrote this about the march:

    I went to a MLK (Martin Luthar King) march.
    I partnered with Sadie.
    Each person had a partner.
    Sadie’s sign said WE ALL BELONG.
    Mine said JUSTICE & PEACE.
    It was really fun.
    My favorite part was the marching Band.
    I felt happy at the march.
    We celebrate him because he stood up for civil writes and black people.
    We march for him because he gave great Speaches.
    Also because he took part in big marches.

    MLK March Image

    Diversity and Outreach

    By Tanisha Brandon-Felder, PTSA Diversity and Outreach Chair


    If you were at the last PTSA general meeting, then you know we had an amazing taco bar as well as a great meeting. But if you were not able to join us, I want you to know that we missed you. I mean that. Your absence was noted, and with no shade or blame, I say to you, YOU were missed. Having dinner and childcare available is one of the few things we are doing this year to increase the opportunity for engagement for families. But I know that those two efforts will not reach everyone, so I invite you to let me know the best way for you to be engaged at Orca. As Diversity and Outreach Chair, I am excited to know that there are numerous ways to be engaged in your child's experience at Orca and I want to make sure however that happens that you know it's okay. 

    One thing that may help engagement is making sure we are reaching families in the language that is most comfortable for them. I had a great talk with a parent last week who reinforced this and I couldn't agree more. 

    So here are a few tips to navigate the school website:

    First the link-

    Then the language tabs-

    This can help you find overall information about Orca.

    On another note, the Race Forum topic for January was Windows and Mirrors: The Importance of Students Seeing Themselves in School Curriculum and Materials. It was a great turnout with K-8th grade parents, grandparents, and even students present. Please plan to join us in March. 

    The MLK March and Assembly were powerful reminders of what movement a community can create. Orca had an impact on many people Friday the 12th and I know that spirits were lifted and empowered by the messages of our youth. 

    National African American Parent Involvement Day will be celebrated at Orca on Feb. 16th starting at 9:15 a.m. This is a day for families with children that identify as Black. We will have breakfast (all Orca families are welcome to grab a bite) do classroom visits and volunteer time, hear some guest speakers, enjoy a buffet lunch and make new connections. I look forward to spending the day with you.

    There are so many things going on right now, and to share the love of diversity with you all, I have started posting the local events on the Orca PTSA Facebook page. If you would like these posted in other ways, please let me know. I am available at


    Have a great month! 


    Othello Outreach Clinic


    The Othello Outreach Clinic is a FREE bi-monthly community clinic offering health screening, health education, health insurance enrollment, blood pressure and blood sugar tests, and vision screening.

    On the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month at Mercy Housing Othello,

    6840 MLK, Jr. Way, Seattle, WA 98118, from 10am-2pm.


    Auction Update

    By Christina Gutierrez, mom to Olive Patterson (2nd grade), Auction Chair.


    Happy New Year and welcome back! 


    As the new year gets underway it’s time to start thinking about Orca’s biggest fundraising event of the year, The Annual Orca K8 Auction. Invitations are being sent out this week, so check your mailbox and mark your calendars. The invites will include an RSVP card, but you can also purchase tickets on our website, just go to


    This year’s auction is Sunday, March 25, 2018 at SODO Park from 5 pm to 10 pm.  I hope you can join us for dinner, drinks, and live entertainment from The Savoy Night Owls. There will be a silent auction as well as a live auction. Most importantly, we will be coming together as a community to celebrate our school and show support for our children.


    We hope to raise $70,000 this year. As I write that number, it looks like a big goal, and it is, but it is not unattainable. Some may wonder, what does this money go towards? 


    Some of the ESSENTIAL Orca programs the auction helps fund include: the garden program ($44,000), We.APP ($23,000), individual reading and tutoring programs ($10,000), and Orca Plus ($9,000). Each dollar we raise at the auction goes directly towards the school programs funded in whole or in part by the Orca K-8 PTSA. These programs make Orca special, these programs draw parents and students to Orca; and without the support from parents, families, teachers, staff, and our community these programs would end.


    The first step towards achieving our goal is attendance. I am hoping that most of our Orca families, teachers, and staff will be able to celebrate our community at the auction. We are hoping to sell out tickets to the auction this year. As in previous years, the PTSA will provide tickets for teachers and staff to attend free of charge. Attendance is important because more people means more giving, which means more money raised for the school. 


    The next step towards success involves giving. We need attendees to come ready to support the school. The Auction Committee is working hard procuring items for the silent and live auctions. We are hoping to have an item for every person, something that your family may need, want, or already spend money on in one way or another. Check your child’s backpack for a procurement packet to donate or procure items for the auction.


    Last year’s auction was a success on many levels. It was my favorite auction in the nine years I have been an Orca parent. The community presence and love for our school was huge. We had wanted the night to be a celebration, a party, and time to remember. And it was! I heard many comments and praise for the auction in the weeks that followed from parents, teachers and staff about how great the auction made them feel about Orca and about our mission. We had fun! We also met our fundraising goal.


    I volunteered to be the auction chair because I love our school. In no way am I an expert at fundraising.  We have a great committee of committed parents helping to plan our biggest party of the year. Email with your ideas, feedback, help, etc. - anything that you can give.


    Advocacy Update

    By Justin Kalm, Orca PTSA Legislative Chair and Assistant Secretary


    The Washington State PTA waited until January 16th to announce that it had designated Monday, January 29th as its Legislative Focus Day, a day to come to Olympia and meet with legislators. In my experience, this is far too little time to arrange for meetings with legislators. It also happens to be a school day, so we can’t bring our children as we did last year. Fortunately, the PTA has an alternative this year, called Advocacy Week, which lasts from January 29th to February 4th.


    During Advocacy Week, the PTA has the following alternative suggestions for contacting legislators:


    The PTA will have a new priority topic every day during Advocacy Week – sign up for voter voice, follow Washington State PTA on Facebook, and check the Washington State PTA blog ( to get weekly updates on state PTA priorities and bills.


    If you find that you are able to attend Focus Day, with the understanding that your legislators may not have time to meet, you can find more information on Facebook at