White River School District is moving forward with a familiar face in Janel Keating.
In December, the White River School Board didn’t hesitate as it handed Keating a three-year contract. Board President Denise Vogel said they didn’t want another district snatching the innovative, hard-working, popular leader away.
Keating, who has been instrumental in turning the district into an educational powerhouse the past seven years as deputy superintendent, assumed leadership July 1 and it’s education as usual for the Buckley-based district.
“The message hasn’t changed since I arrived 15 years ago as principal,” said Keating, who started her career with the district as principal at Mountain Meadow Elementary School. “I’m here to ensure learning for the kids and the staff.”
Keating uses her daughter, a student at White River High School, who has been with the district since kindergarten as her barometer. Keating’s mission has been to create a district of educational equality – each school; each classroom is designed to be good enough, not just for her child, but every child.
For Keating it’s about the kids, the staff, the community and learning.
She has been building a collaborative culture between all staff – teaching, support, administrative and classified – and students to ensure each has a successful future.
Through Professional Learning Communities, district leadership has made student learning its focus by outlining exactly what each student must learn. They then monitor each students learning and provide systemic intervention. For those who master learning standards there are enrichment opportunities.
The process is research-based and data driven with visible results. In the past seven years, White River has seen its test scores rise to among the highest in Pierce County, and in many instances, the state. Leadership has adopted new curriculum with checks and balances to guarantee every student’s success.
As an example, at the elementary level, in 2010, White River had the highest state standardized math scores of the 15 districts and 126 elementary schools in Pierce County with math achievement in all of White River’s elementary schools ranking near the state’s top 10 percent.
Foothills Elementary, one of the lowest performing White River schools five years ago, is now one of the highest-performing elementary schools in Puget Sound and was named a 2010 Washington State School of Distinction.
The district’s work is nationally recognized and Keating speaks to educators across the country sharing the secrets of White River’s success. Thousands of administrators and educators from across the country have also visited the White River School District to see the work in action.
Those who work with Keating say there’s no secret to the district’s success. It’s commitment, a common sense approach and Keating’s example of drive and dedication.