Friday, May 24, 2024

Meet Dr. Tracey L. Edou, superintendent of the Cascade School District

Q & A

Posted

Leavenworth - Dr. Tracey L. Edou took the helm of the Cascade school district shortly before the pandemic and has led the district through the changes and challenges it brought. Before joining Cascade Schools in 2019, Edou was the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning for the high-performing STEM district, Oak Ridge Schools, in Tennessee.

Edou has been a classroom teacher, a Peace Corps Volunteer, a math coach in the Microsoft Math Partnership, an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, and a senior project manager for science education programs.

Edou has a distinguished career, but her passion lies in seeing students learn and grow. Her favorite part of her job is when she gets to spend time with students. She strives to ensure that each child in her district is known, cared for and has what they need to succeed in school and after they walk across the stage at graduation.

We caught up with Edou recently to learn more about her job, her vision for leading and shaping the future of education, and the challenges and successes of the district.

What do you see as the most significant accomplishments or initiatives that have taken place under your leadership within the Cascade School District?

We have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic, we have renovated our Career and Technical Education building, we have built a greenhouse, we have created an outdoor classroom at Peshastin-Dryden Elementary School, we have exceeded state averages on the state assessment in both English and math in all tested grades, we have revamped our intervention programs as well as our Highly Capable program, our graduation rate has grown to 97%, 99% of our graduates participate in at least one postsecondary opportunity while in high school, we have implemented composting and mixed recycling in all of our four main campuses, our school board was selected as Small District School Board of the Year for the State of Washington, and we have recently been selected as FieldSTEM District of the Year for 2023.

What is your favorite part about your job and why?

My favorite part of (my) job is when I have the opportunity to spend time with kids. We have the best kids in Cascade School District, and I love to see them learning, growing, and experiencing the great childhoods this region has to offer.

What makes Cascade schools unique?

There are so many things that make our school district unique. One is that every child is known and cared for. Children don’t slip through the cracks here. We say that we value every student, and I believe that we walk that talk. Cascade School District is also unique in that the Outdoors and Artful Creativity are two core values of our district and the communities we serve. That means that we embed the arts and the outdoors in our educational offerings. I also love how we teach skiing and snowshoeing in school, and I’m grateful to Stevens Pass for the ski passes they offer for students who are academically excellent. It’s also incredible what great school bus drivers we have. They don’t miss a beat driving in the snow!

Cascade School District serves a diverse community. How do you ensure educational equity is a top priority, and what strategies have been implemented to address this?

Another core value of our district is Inclusive Diversity, which means that we include everyone, honor diversity, and embrace different cultures and various socio-economic realities. A couple of examples of how we implement this strategy include providing bilingual secretaries in each of our four campuses and ensuring that we send materials home in both Spanish and English. We also have a very involved Migrant Parent Advisory Committee that has many activities throughout the year. We also just recently hosted a Multicultural Fiesta at Peshastin-Dryden Elementary School which provided access to community resources and was a celebration for all of our families.

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about the impact of technology on education. How do you see technology evolving in the classroom, and what steps has the district taken to keep up with these changes?

I think the COVID-19 pandemic helped us learn a lot about technology in education. Although nothing can replace face-to-face learning, it’s also true that technology opens a window into the classroom for families. As an example, we use Seesaw in grades K-2 and Canvas in grades 3-12. These learning management systems help parents and students be able to engage with classrooms and classroom learning from home.

What are your goals for the school district over the next few years?

My number one goal is that every graduate who crosses the stage at graduation has a meaningful destination on the other side of that stage. We are close to that goal now; however, we can continue to create systems and opportunities to allow that to happen for every graduate. Some other goals are to build an outdoor classroom at every school, ensure that we have a vertically aligned system of interventions throughout the district, and to increase parent and student involvement in after school activities and athletics. For more information about school goals, you can find our strategic framework and District Improvement Plan on our website.

What initiatives or programs are in place to support students' social and emotional well-being, especially in light of the increased focus on mental health in schools?

We have school counselors, a district-wide social worker, community partnerships, and a district-wide character education program that all work together alongside teachers, paraeducators, nurses, and administrators, to help our students’ social and emotional well-being.

Can you share some success stories or memorable moments from your time as superintendent?

One memorable moment for me was when, on a Friday, the Governor announced that we would close school as of the next Tuesday. I was so proud of our entire staff because we didn’t miss a single day of school. We gave out laptops and learning packets on Monday so that online learning would start immediately, and we started delivering food to our distribution points on Tuesday. It may have been bumpy during the pandemic, but our kids didn’t miss a single day of school. I’m very proud of how our entire system, including community services who provided access to home internet, as an example, virtually linked arms in order to support our students and provide some structure during such a difficult time.

Another memorable moment for me was watching a student with special needs in an athletic tournament. How the entire athletic community and our students embraced their classmate, celebrated his success, and helped him feel like the champion he is was one of the highlights of my time so far in the school district.

Another memorable moment involves our partnership with Blue Origin. I just love how the scientists from Blue Origin partner with 7th grade students and teachers on the Mars project. This is a project that could not only lead to careers, but maybe even a future reality that we can only imagine right now.

Who or what inspires you?

My daughter is my greatest inspiration. Other than my daughter, I’m inspired by every educator who gives their all in order to (help) children to grow up, have positive futures, and positively contribute to our communities and world.

What do you like to do with your free time?

I like to hike, read, and spend time with friends and family. I really love getting the chance to travel and see sea turtles in the wild when I can.

What do you want your legacy to be?

A legacy is a long-lasting impact, so the best legacy I can leave is to know that I have played a role in the education and childhoods of the precious youth of our communities. What I work for everyday is that they cross the stage at graduation and go on to fulfill their dreams.

Is there anything else you want our readers to know?

I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for the communities of our school district. It’s truly a special place, and I am so impressed with how community members work together to serve the children here. It is incredibly special to see people providing coats to those who are cold, food for those who are hungry, cheers for those who perform or compete, ski passes to those who need to learn how to ski, school supplies to those who need them for school, scholarships for those who need a helping hand for college or various community opportunities, and the list goes on and on. Thank you also for support of bonds and levies as our students have safe places to learn, the opportunity to participate in after school activities and athletics, and technology that is essential in education today. We are all grateful for the community support we receive in the Upper Valley.

Quinn Propst: (509) 731-3590 or quinn@ward.media

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