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Creating the Future
Creating The Future
When I am out in the community I am often asked what’s new in the district. It is a loaded question because the changes in education are a little like drinking from the fire hydrant. We manage massive amounts of change by taking a proactive approach and trying to stay ahead of the timelines.
The federal and state legislation, changes to accountability systems, and best practice are all requiring lots of changes. Educational leaders often refer to “initiative fatigue” when too many things are rolled out at the same time.
The challenge is to be ahead of proposals that become mandates at some later point. We feel pretty good about the work we have done to prepare for changes in state and federal accountability requirements. We are well positioned to be ahead of the deadlines.
Schools will always be on a continuous improvement cycle. The work is never complete and there is always room to improve. We have many local processes that are designed to improve our district.
The work on our new strategic plan is a good example. Last spring we engaged the community in “The Great Conversation” and the result was a new set of strategic directions. By board policy, the strategic directions become a major focus of our work.
Since the culmination of the work in the community listening sessions, we have appointed leaders for each of the six strategic action teams I met with each team leader and laid out expectations for the process and shared the community feedback. Their first step was to build an action team.
There are six action teams, each with a focus on one of the following areas: The Learning Experience, Technology, Facilities, Personnel, Resources, and Public Engagement. The goals and strategic directions were defined by the community.
Each action team is in the process of using the community feedback to develop a plan. The action plan will include a 3-5 year timeline of the action steps that will be implemented to achieve the strategic direction.
There were a lot of exciting ideas tied to the strategic directions. For example, our community wants our students to have a broader global perspective and value world languages. The Learning Experience action team will develop ideas and strategies to achieve this goal.
Our community was also concerned with communication skills and literacy. We heard a lot from the community about presentation skills and the ability to communicate effectively in speaking, writing, and listening. The student listening session participants told us they should be expected to write more than they do now. They also thought they could be expected to read more. It is all part of the feedback that will be used to drive our next steps.
So when I am asked what is “new,” I could literally talk for hours about some of the meaningful and exciting work that is underway. The six action teams will bring a draft of their recommendations to the board in December. The board will have an opportunity to prioritize their areas of concern and build on the recommendations.
There will be some creative, challenging, and promising proposals. Imagine our students learning a foreign language in elementary school. Imagine students no longer using textbooks due to digital technology. Imagine our students on virtual fieldtrips around the world.
Once the action plans are approved the implementation work will be done over a 3-5 year plan. Some of the work will involve “low hanging fruit” or things that can be done right away. Other ideas, such as a potential K-5 world language program or the possibility of an elementary site with a year-round calendar, would take more time to develop and explore.
The district’s previous strategic plan focused on Caring Individuals, Citizenship, Trust, Lifelong Learning, and Diversity. Over a five-year period, action teams worked to implement things such as a new reading program; electronic reporting; improvements at the environmental site; a community and service learning program; diversity programming through speakers, student experiences, and better resources; our resiliency/health realization program, and more.
Looking back, the work provided many benefits to our current students and the community as a whole. I am certain the new plan will as well. There will be lots to talk and write about.
A strategic plan is vital to a progressive school district. Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Our community had a lot to say about the hopes and dreams they have for our children. Creating that future begins with knowing what you expect it to achieve.
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