Trevor Greene

Yakima’s new school superintendent, Trevor Greene, officially starts work today, but he’s already been transitioning in, learning about the district’s needs and strengths.

Yakima School District alumnus Trevor Greene begins his role as superintendent today, July 1.

Greene was unanimously voted in by the school board in March.

He had been executive director of human resources at Highline Public Schools in Burien since 2015, and spent a year there as the instructional leadership executive director. During his time at Highline, he supervised nine principals; co-developed a two-year bilingual teacher program and a program that helps students become teachers; and brought the number of teachers of color up to 53 percent, compared with 16 percent four years ago.

Prior to that, he was principal of Toppenish High School from 2008-13, when it reached a 93.5 percent graduation rate — well above the 77.2 percent state average. He was named principal of the year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals for 2012-13, leading him to mentor principals nationwide.

Greene is a graduate of Davis High School and took his first teaching role at Eisenhower High School. He replaces Jack Irion, who retired as superintendent of Yakima School District at the end of the school year.

The Yakima district has 16,000 students.

The Yakima Herald-Republic caught up with Greene to talk about his new role and plans for the district.

You’ve already been working closely with the district ahead of your transition into the role as superintendent. What has been your primary focus so far?

I’ve been blessed by the school board to have some transition days each week, and it’s allowed me to be out in every school, meet with principals in every school and meet with groups of educators as well as attend community events and reach out to potential (community) partners. This has been very eye-opening, very enlightening, and I’m excited about the potential that exists in bringing the community even closer together to address current challenges that exist and are surfacing.

What is your main goal(s) for the first school year under your leadership?

My major focus over the first six months will be to engage in outreach to rejuvenate ... our strategic plan. Our current plan expired in 2018, and the board and I are all looking forward to active involvement of the community, all areas of the community, to dictate the services and direction that we provide for our students.

The strategic planning process starts this September and it will conclude in January, with the results being shared communitywide.

The board emphasized a desire for state- and national-level representation and advocacy when hiring a new superintendent. What plans do you have in the first year to represent Yakima in this way?

To do that, it’s imperative that I spend time in the district to truly understand what’s happening, where the gaps are and what we can do collectively to have a functioning system for every member of our district, both students and adults — obviously with students at the center. … So (that’s) my first priority.

However, I do have opportunities that are out there to daylight the positive things that are happening in our district. I will be attending ... state events with the board to make sure that the great things that are happening are out there, like our calm room and the things that are happening around vocational education at YV-Tech and our wonderful International Baccalaureate program.

During superintendent candidate interviews, students expressed an interest in having more interaction with and input given to the superintendent and board. Is this something you plan to cultivate, and if so, how?

This first year I will look at expanding opportunities for student involvement at the district level. I am putting together a student advisory council that will meet on a regular basis for time specifically with me and other district leaders to address students’ celebrations and concerns in a case-to-case manner. I’m really excited about that opportunity, because I think that far too often when we talk about concern in the district, it becomes easy to skip over those who matter most, our students, and I’m committed to ensuring that we keep the voice of the student elevated in everything that we do.

Part of our strategic planning process will be to have specific focus groups of students and other focus groups of parents, so that we are addressing the concerns of that group and not deluding them by mixing them in with other constituents that can drown out their concerns and desires.

What about parent engagement?

As far as outreach to parents, I look forward to attending multiple parent events at all of the schools, and I’m excited about the opportunity to engage in direct conversation with our monolingual Spanish-speaking parents as well as our English speaking parents without the aid of translators. I think it’s important for our parents to be able to have a direct conversation with me as superintendent, and I look forward to those opportunities both during the strategic planning process and during … regular community events and parent events.

How do you intend to improve teacher support in the district?

To address the challenges that teachers face, I first have to know what those are. One of the things that has not happened during the transition period was time to sit and engage with staff members by school. At this point, without having had those conversations, any support is purely speculative.

However, I have had the opportunity to talk with the entire executive board of our Yakima Education Association as well as meet with the paraeducator leaders during their recent training session in late June. What’s been most impressive is the dedication and willingness of all of our teachers, whether they be classroom teachers or paraeducators, to improve their practice through involvement in training opportunities. … The thing that I want to make known to our teachers is that I value them as professionals and I realize that we have a tremendous experience and expertise already in the Yakima Valley.

Any other thoughts?

I want to thank all of the people and committees and students who were involved in the hiring process. The transition time has reaffirmed my belief that Yakima has the potential to not only lead the state in outcomes, but to provide a beacon for education across the country.

I love the Yakima community and I’m grateful for the career that it’s given me, the successes that I’ve experienced in my life, and I’m honored to be home.

Reach Janelle Retka at jretka@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @janelleretka.