Yelm Community Schools superintendent discusses current state of the district

By Jacob Dimond/


Newly appointed Yelm Community Schools Superintendent Chris Woods wants to give every student within the school district the opportunity to succeed.

He expressed that goal on Sept. 12 at Yelm Cinemas during the Yelm Chamber of Commerce’s September Forum, where he talked about the current state of Yelm Community Schools.

“Our goal is to make sure our students will be successful regardless of the path they choose, the school they attend, regardless of where they live. It should not matter,” Woods said. “When they show up, they’re going to get the same high level of education in every classroom in every building.”

The district has focused on creating a sense of belonging for students within Yelm Community Schools, Woods said. He said YCS staff know that students can’t learn to their greatest ability if they’re in an environment where they don’t feel loved or cared for, regardless of the student.

YCS could have the best strategies and curriculum in the world, but it wouldn’t matter if students don’t feel they belong, Woods added. The school district is working on identifying what a sense of belonging within every student looks and sounds like.

“Will we meet that mark with every student every day? No. But we always have work to do to make sure when we get to that place where we can each and every day,” Woods said. “One of the things we’re really proud of is the work that started with Brian Wharton and students last year creating a vehicle for students who need support socially, emotionally or in mental health.”

Woods added that Yelm High School students put together a 24/7 program for students to access the resources they need. Woods said YHS staff supported that idea, and it’s in the process of being rolled out.

YCS is also looking to build relationships with organizations, businesses or individuals in the community. Woods said the district is looking for community partners willing to walk alongside the district to improve, support the district in what it’s doing but also be willing to have “tough and transparent” conversations with the district.

“The last few years, Brian [Wharton, former superintendent] and the staff have worked hard to create partners for Graduate Yelm and also business partners,” Woods said. “Now, we’re taking that step to identify what it looks like to be a partner and how we can engage with those in the community that would like to be involved. You’ll hear a lot more about opportunities you’ll have to engage with us, partner with us, walk alongside us as we try to build a stronger community within our schools.”

Woods said the more community members involved in helping Yelm students, the better off the district will be helping every single student reach their full potential. Ways the community can get involved include guest speaking, becoming a mentor, volunteering, sponsoring an event, following “Graduate Yelm” and staying actively engaged in community activities.

“You may have something really important that you can offer students in skill, experience and advice,” Woods said. “We want to be able to work with our community so students can see all options available to them. Collectively, we could have a huge impact on our students in this community.”

Through an interactive website link posted at the start of the address, Woods asked those in attendance several questions about areas within YCS. One of the questions was “why is supporting Yelm Community Schools important to you?”

Responses from audience members included having kids within the school district, being a YHS alumni, living within the Yelm community, and simply wanting to help.

Woods also emphasized that people from outside of the Yelm district want to bring their kids to the school district. He said they’re drawn to the district because YCS focuses on supporting students on their pathway.

“People are coming here because good things are happening. The secret is out. We like to keep it the best kept secret, but the secret is out. I can tell you that people are talking about Yelm,” Woods said. “One of the things I loved learning was how supportive this community is of kids and our schools. If you ask, people will show up to help every single time. I will say that is not common in every community. It’s pretty unique here in Yelm. If you ask for it, people will show up and are always willing to give their time, their talents and their treasures to support kids.”

Woods concluded his address by posting a famous quote by legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, reading, “It’s amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.”

The superintendent has that quote posted in his office and feels it is a relatable quote as he works in a team-oriented district.

“I think when we don’t care who gets the credit, we can accomplish a whole lot more. When it’s not about whose idea it was, or who implemented it, we can accomplish a whole lot,” Woods said. “It’s not about me, it’s about helping the students. I want to do whatever that is to help our students.”