On December 3rd, Sound Discipline hired Andrea John-Smith to serve as our new Executive Director. Andrea succeeds our Founding Executive Director, Dr. Jody McVittie. In January of 2020, to facilitate Jody’s transition to the full-time role of Director of Strategic Partnerships, the Board brought Andrea on as our Transition ED. Not long after, COVID hit. Andrea went above and beyond her transition scope to help navigate and respond to rapid change. When it came time to resume our ED search in August, Andrea became a candidate for the permanent ED role. Following a rigorous and inclusive selection process, the Board’s conclusion was unanimous. We are thrilled with the selection of Andrea as our new ED and excited about the future of Sound Discipline with Andrea at the helm!
The first time I visited a Sound Discipline Demonstration School, I was lucky enough to visit Bryn Mawr Elementary in Renton, Washington. I got to observe a 3rd grade class meeting — a little boy sitting in circle, sharing about being picked on by other kids on the playground. In hushed but solemn voices, his classmates offered up solutions as the teacher wrote them down. After looking over the list, the boy decided which solution would be most helpful for him to try. When the class meeting ended, he got up from circle and made his way to his desk with a big smile on his face.
Seeing that re-organized my molecules. Perhaps it affected me so much because it connected with my own story. When I was a kid, my teachers were scary. School was a dangerous, socially stratified place where inclusion and safety depended on conformity. Looking back, I see how those hard things shaped my strong sense of empathy, and my scrappiness, healthy skepticism, and passion. I found my place and my people in social change work.
I began my nonprofit career as a fundraiser — everything from door-to-door canvassing, to grants, to workplace campaigns, to major giving. I’ve supported women’s rights, human services programs, community capital projects, race and social justice movements, affordable housing, arts and culture, global maternal health, community development, and education.
In 2007, I started Scout Finch Consulting. As my consulting practice got off the ground, I hoped to focus solely on education but ended up supporting nonprofits in a variety of fields. Most of my learning about education and schools came from volunteering and being a mom. I got immersed in Positive Discipline when my daughter Sofia attended a Montessori Preschool called The Learning Tree. When Sofia attended public school in southeast Seattle, I became an activist for education equity.
In 2010, I shifted my consulting practice from fundraising to strategy and leadership. I learned how to facilitate strategies that centered the community. I worked at tempering my default mode of always having the answer and practiced asking questions that tapped the wisdom in the room. I have gotten to work with many caring leaders and see wonderful things culminate for communities and people. Increasingly, though, I missed working with a team and getting to see things through.
Working with Sound Discipline staff and Board Members over the past year, thanks in part to the disruption of COVID, I’ve had the chance to go deep, and to immerse myself in social emotional learning aimed at fostering belonging, inclusion, and equity.
As the new Executive Director, I will be a sponge – listening, learning, and exploring opportunities to grow impact – whether that’s through our programs or collaborating with and supporting our partners, community leaders, and advocates. I look forward to sharing more about our vision and program strategy. In this blog, I will be lifting up provocative and compelling voices in our field and sharing my take on what we must do to be responsive and accountable to the people we serve.
I especially look forward to getting to know you. If you’d like to connect, I hope you will reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.