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Seattle principals awarded

Eyva Winet, principal of Seattle's NOVA High School, receiving the Thomas B. Foster Award June 3. Photo courtesy Alliance for Eductation

Two Seattle principals awarded for equity efforts

Win means $25,000 in unrestricted funds for each school

Alliance for Education, the local education fund for the Seattle Public School district, delivered $25,000 Thomas B. Foster Awards for Excellence to two Seattle principals this week. The awards recognize each principal’s success in advancing educational justice and racial equity in their school community.  

Huyen Lam, principal at Rising Star Elementary, and Eyva Winet, principal of  Nova High School, were nominated by parents and others in an open nomination process. The selection also considers school achievement and other data, including metrics of equity and antiracism, school climate surveys, district college and career readiness goals, and standardized testing in math and English.

Both leaders were notified of their win during surprise school celebrations this week. The award has been given to SPS principals since 1999 in commemoration of Foster, a Seattle attorney and public school champion. The awards are unrestricted, allowing staff at each school to use the funds as they see fit to best serve their students.

Schools where justice and equity are the goal

Rising Star PTA members lauded Lam for his intentional hiring of a diverse team of educators and for his focus on making Rising Star a place where students and families feel a sense of belonging and where their culture and language are reflected in academics. 

An outpouring of nominations from students, staff, and parents highlighted how Winet maximizes resources and uses innovative methods to meet students where they are. Students called Winet a positive role model and applauded her advocacy for advancing LGBTQIA+ and gender justice causes and for creating a school environment where over 97% of students attend 90% or more of school days. 

Paving the way

“Their visionary leadership and dedication have positively transformed their schools, and they set a powerful example for school communities across the region,” Alliance for Education President Lisa Chick said of principals Lam and Winet. “By fostering inclusive learning environments and focusing on the success of students furthest from educational justice, they are paving the way for a brighter, more equitable future in public education.”

Seattle awards

Huyen Lam, principal at Rising Star Elementary, received the Thomas B. Foster Award from the Alliance for Education in June. Photo courtesy Alliance for Education.

We asked Principals Lam and Winet about their wins and work toward equity. Here’s what they had to say:

Seattle’s Child (SC): Does this award affirm and further your school’s work toward racial equity

Principal Lam: I feel this award came at just the right time to give us a little boost of inspiration and motivation. [Our staff’s] collective hard work, accountability, and professional development—and our Professional Learning Community meetings and planning—are dedicated to equity and access for all students to a high-quality, culturally responsive learning environment. We are making a difference for our students, especially for students furthest from educational justice.”

SC: What will your school do with the $25,000 aware? Is there a specific project it will go towards? 

Principal Lam: We will use this fund to continue to enhance our after-school academic tutoring and enrichment programs for our students. With recent budget cuts, this funding came just in time to help us sustain the resources and programs that work for our students to meet their grade-level achievement standards. We also want to balance the academic push and the joy of learning. If we have leftover money, perhaps we can get a permanent, beautiful sign for our Rising Star school name rather than the current faded banner.

Principal Winet: We recently turned down some very needed funds from a grant because they would not allow us to fully live in our abolitionist values. It is incredibly validating that not compromising core beliefs can be honored by an organization like Alliance for Education that values the real impact and voices of folks in our community.

Our dedication to liberatory education is authentic and grown from our whole community’s evolving inquiry into education as a container for our mutual liberation. It shouldn’t be, but often feels like an audacious dream in public schools, so this honor reminds us we are not alone in this vision. Being recognized and funded for this work enables us to continue to replace carceral practices with transformative practices, which we see daily changing students, staff, families, and our community partners’ capacity for healing, learning, and acting on their own freedom dreams. As with all aspects of our community, we do this work centering consent, choice, and student voice and through meeting each other with compassion, curiosity, and care.

Principal Winet: We have a budget committee as part of the democratic committee system that runs our school. The budget committee consists of mostly students, myself, and one other teacher, and we are tasked with aligning our spending to our values and fundraising to support student and staff projects and committee initiatives. The students will get the final say. We have been brainstorming ways to fund the expansion of some of our work to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, which includes staff collaborations with the Monroe Black Prisoner’s Caucus, a mentorship program we piloted this year, and growing culturally centered somatic healing opportunities for students who are system and violence impacted. We are also actively growing our community’s capacity to use transformative and restorative processes and could use some of this money to continue to do intergenerational training for staff and students.

Principal Winet: We recently turned down some very needed funds from a grant because they would not allow us to fully live in our abolitionist values. It is incredibly validating that not compromising core beliefs can be honored by an organization like Alliance for Education that values the real impact and voices of folks in our community.

Our dedication to liberatory education is authentic and grown from our whole community’s evolving inquiry into education as a container for our mutual liberation. It shouldn’t be, but often feels like an audacious dream in public schools, so this honor reminds us we are not alone in this vision. Being recognized and funded for this work enables us to continue to replace carceral practices with transformative practices, which we see daily changing students, staff, families, and our community partners’ capacity for healing, learning, and acting on their own freedom dreams. As with all aspects of our community, we do this work centering consent, choice, and student voice and through meeting each other with compassion, curiosity, and care.”

SC: Were you surprised to receive the award? 

Principal Lam: I was totally in shock receiving this news at our student’s Firebird Award Assembly. It felt like someone was watching over us and knows how hard we’ve been working as a team. It was like we were at the point of feeling like we didn’t know if we could go any further, and then the announcement of the Foster Award felt like someone just poured a full tank of gas into our car that was about to run out of gas. Rising Star will RISE UP and help all our students reach their destination of opportunity to a successful future.

Principal Winet: I was absolutely surprised! We heal, grow, create, and govern as a community, so I don’t tend to think of myself as an award-winning principal leader, so it was surprising and a little embarrassing to get this kind of an award. The joy, gratitude, and excitement of my community was palpable, which was more fun even than carrying around a giant check!”

 

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About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for NestingInstinctsSeattle.com and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at Compasswriters.com.