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Friday Forums: Embracing Difference as a Strength

Superintendent Joe Gothard

Dear SPPS Colleagues,

I work hard to prioritize the dates and times of the Office of Equity’s Friday Forum series so I can attend these incredible sessions. 

Entering the Center for Equity and Culture at Washington Technology Magnet School is a wonderful setting to gather with our community. Staff, students, families and community partners gather to  learn about topics and experiences through the perspectives of featured guests.

Attending Friday Forums I have laughed out loud at a presenter’s wit, shed quiet tears listening to speakers’ experiences and felt sudden surges of anger realizing the pain placed upon our students and members of our community. The humility, strength and resilience I have witnessed at our Friday Forums also brings me great pride to be apart of a community that embraces difference as a strength; and an opportunity for growth and introspection.

Friday Forums typically begin with panelist introductions before a moderator leads the discussion. Time is reserved toward the end for audience questions, and then the entire room is invited to join together to share a community meal to continue conversations with the speakers. 

This past Friday, the forum topic was Ableism. Panelists shared their lived experiences with physical, intellectual and psychiatric disabilities. I am grateful for the current and former SPPS students, staff and community members who opened their hearts to share their greatest challenges -- and their triumphs.  

Individualized and personalized learning are terms I use and/or hear frequently in education. Listening to our Friday Forum guests and regularly listening to our students and families has pushed me to consider new perspectives. Building critical relationships to welcome, embrace and guide our students toward their best future.

The upcoming Friday Forum topics are:

  • February 21: “Immigrant Communities”
  • March 13: “Being a Teacher”
  • May 15: “SPPS Grads”

These sessions are free and open to the public. I strongly encourage you to attend if your schedule and work priorities permit. For more information about the Friday Forum series, visit

Thank you for continuing to lead the way with a strong commitment to inclusion with all of our students every day.

In partnership,

Joe Gothard, Superintendent