Superintendent Dr. Greg Baker accepted the annual Distinguished Service Award from the Washington Traffic Safety Education Association (WTSEA) on Oct. 12. This award honors a non-teacher—for example, an administrator, legislator or program director—whose work supports traffic safety education (TSE) in our state.
“We believe that The Bellingham Promise is a vision that is truly remarkable,” Alex Hansen, WTSEA president said in a statement, “and bringing TSE back to the community served by the Bellingham School District, at no cost to the families no less, is simply the most encouraging development that has occurred in Washington in nearly twenty years.”
Bellingham Public Schools returned traffic safety education, also known as driver’s ed, to our high schools during the 2018-19 school year. The Washington state legislature stopped subsidizing traffic safety education in 2002, leading most school districts to phase out the expensive but important class.
Bellingham’s unique and pioneering approach to our renewed TSE program pairs traffic safety instruction with personal finance, educating students on the financial details and liabilities that come with vehicle ownership. Students are engaged in the curriculum because getting a driver’s license and knowing the cost and responsibility of vehicle ownership is a relevant and possible next step in their lives.
We prioritized returning TSE to our high schools when we had an opportunity with the new high school schedule shift and could offer the class during the school day. It also provided equitable no-cost, school-day access to TSE for all students.
Last year, over 400 students exited our semester-long classes prepared to get their drivers’ licenses once they pass any additional state requirements, such as the behind-the-wheel drive test and the state’s written exam.
“I am honored,” Baker said, “For us, the decision to make this happen was based on The Bellingham Promise and our drive to ensure equitable access for all students to meaningful opportunities. And what’s more important than ensuring the safety of our students? This recognition truly goes to our outstanding traffic safety team and the work they do to support students and families.”
WTSEA acknowledged that other leaders in Bellingham Public Schools helped return TSE to our high schools but wished to single out Dr. Baker for this honor.
“As the leader of this vision to make a promise to Bellingham to allow renewed access to quality TSE, Dr. Baker is deserving of this special recognition,” Hansen said.