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After five lengthy meetings, School District 65’s Strategic Planning Committee is getting closer to preparing a draft strategic plan which will guide the District for the next five years. The Committee was scheduled to meet last night (after this paper went to press) to prepare a vision for the District and to develop additional goals.

It is anticipated the Committee will prepare a draft plan in the next few weeks and then solicit input on the draft from administrators, teachers and the community before putting it in final form in September or October. The plan is subject to School Board approval.

The strategic plan will likely include a new mission statement, a statement of core values, a vision statement and goals.

The Committee consists of forty persons: five central office administrators, seven principals or vice-principals, all seven School Board members, nine parents (including the PTA Council president), eleven teachers, and one member of the business community. Bill Attea, chairman of the board of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates Ltd., is acting as the facilitator.

Mission Statement/Core Values

The Mission Statement is intended to answer, “Why does District 65 exist? What does it hope to accomplish?” On April 26 the Committee approved a proposed mission statement: “Educating each student to succeed and contribute in our global community by cultivating creativity, compassion and the pursuit of excellence.”

The statement of core values is intended to provide focus to planning, Mr. Attea told Committee members. “You don’t have unlimited resources; you have to prioritize,” he said. “This is where the core beliefs come in. They are what is going to drive your decision-making.”

On June 25 the Committee signed off on a list of 14 core values. The list includes excellence in education for all students in all schools; the role of parents as the primary educators of their children; the preparation of students to be productive citizens of a diverse, global community; high expectations; an inclusive environment that respects diversity in race, culture, socio-economic status, religion and family structures; and collaborative decision making. (See sidebar for a complete listing of the proposed core values.)

The Vision

The Vision Statement will likely be prepared in a story format and outline what the Committee would like the District to look like in ten years. The Committee met in five groups on April 26, and each group prepared a story about how the District would look in 2018; the five stories were then synthesized into a composite story.

A preliminary draft of the Vision story contains a number of ideas suggested in a brainstorming session: establish a new global community school that will prepare students to live any place in the world; establish magnet programs at three existing schools that focus on Chinese, Honduran and Arabic studies; expand the African-centered curriculum to Walker School and to a new school in the Fifth Ward; establish a new school devoted to pre-K education, with an option to enroll children at age one; establish a parent-option K-8, year-round school.

The Committee was scheduled to discuss the Vision last night.

Goals

The Committee held several brainstorming sessions on long-term goals to achieve in the next five (or more) years. The potential goals were grouped into six strands: curriculum; instruction; student and family support; staff and instructional support; community outreach and services; and facilities and finances. The strategic plan will also likely have three overarching goals.

On June 25 the Committee rejected a proposal to add a seventh strand addressing special education (see sidebar) and began to identify three primary goals to be developed for each strand and to be included in the strategic plan. Mr. Attea said the goals were not intended to address “the three most important things” but “the three things that need to be addressed by the District in the next five years.”

The Committee decided that the following goal “topics” would be included in the curriculum, instruction and student and family support strands:

• Curriculum: 1) improve literacy skills; 2) introduce a comprehensive pre-K program; 3) introduce world language as part of the curriculum in the elementary schools, with the intent of beginning a world language in kindergarten.

• Instruction: 1) continue implementation of differentiation and enrichment of instruction; 2) implement “technology mediated instruction” – use technology effectively in the delivery of instruction; 3) implement the Response to Intervention (RTI) model; 4) integrate special education students into the general education population where appropriate, and foster co-teaching and collaboration amongst teachers.

• Student and Family Support: 1) increase effective involvement of all District 65 parents in the education of their children by creating a school climate that includes parents in support of their kids; 2) increase the number of student nurses in the schools; 3) evaluate Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, PBIS, and implement appropriate changes, including those that reduce disruption in class, and consider alternatives to suspensions and expulsions.

The goals will be fleshed out in the draft of the strategic plan.

The Committee was scheduled last night to prioritize its goals for the remaining three strands: staff and instructional support; community outreach and services; and facilities and finances. Some of the goals put on the table during earlier brainstorming sessions include hiring a highly qualified, diverse staff; providing professional development; establishing a new school in the Fifth Ward; establishing stronger relationships with District 202 and Northwestern University; developing or updating a five-year plan that addresses facilities, science labs, green priorities.

Next Steps

It is anticipated that the Committee will approve a preliminary draft strategic plan in the next few weeks. Mr. Attea told the RoundTable that the Committee will then seek input on the draft from administrators in the latter part of August, from teachers in the latter part of August or early September, and from the parents and members of the community in two public meetings in September. He said he thought the Committee would approve a plan to recommend to the School Board in October.


Board member Mary Rita Luecke proposed that the Committee add a seventh strand containing goals for special education services. She said there was little to no attention to students with special needs in the draft strategic plan, and they should be addressed in a separate strand.

Geneva Oatman, director of special services for the District, disagreed, saying that the District’s delivery of special services was appropriate and moving in the right direction. She said the District was implementing a unified system of delivery of instruction under which all students are educated in the general education classroom to the greatest extent possible. “If you continue to make special education a special piece, they [students receiving special services] will be looked at differently,” she said. It was a “hard fight” to have special education kids included, she added.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy questioned, “If the needs of special education students were addressed in a separate strand, why not address the needs of Title I students, African-American students, and other students in separate strands?” He said, “We want to address all of their needs through existing strands.”

Ms. Luecke said, “My personal preference is to single them out. This is not about pulling them out of the general education classrooms. I’ve been on the Board for seven years and I’ve heard about special education issues before that. I think it’s time to take the bull by the horns.”

A teacher on the Committee said she could say the same thing about the achievement gap.

The Committee decided by a wide margin not to include special education as a separate strand, but to include it as goal in the strand addressing instruction. Committee members also suggested that the strategic plan contain a preamble stating that the needs of special education students and other categories of students are intended to be addressed by certain goals generally applicable to all students.

D65 Proposed Core Values

The School District 65 Strategic Planning Committee signed off on the following statement of core values on June 25:

“”We value:

• Excellence in education for all students in all schools.

• Keeping the best interest of students in mind when every decision is made.

• The role of parents as the primary educators of their children, and the role they play in cooperation with the schools in the formal education process.

• The preparation of students to be productive citizens of a diverse, global community requires mastery of fundamental skills, the ability to think creatively and solve problems and an understanding of citizenship.

• High expectations and continuous growth toward excellence, consistent with each student’s academic needs, interests and learning style so that students realize their full potential for on-going learning and success throughout their lives.

• The cognitive, emotional, physical, social and creative development of all students.

• The treatment of every individual in an open, equitable, fair and professional manner.

• A welcoming, orderly and inclusive environment that respects diversity in race, culture, socio-economic status, religion and family structures and celebrates common ideals.

• Collaborative decision-making partnerships among students, educators, parents and community, including District 202 and other educational institutions, which seek feedback to continually improve.

• Highly skilled, committed and nurturing teachers, administrators, professional staff and support personnel who are reflective and committed to on-going professional development.

• The opportunity for every child to attend a neighborhood school.

• Magnet schools and programs, which offer educational options for our students.

• Efficient and effective management of resources to meet educational priorities.

• Safe and well maintained schools that are conducive to learning.””


Goal to Increase Rigor Did Not Make Cut

Some Committee members proposed to include as one of the goals: increase the rigor in core subjects (reading, mathematics, science, social studies) with a focus on the pursuit of excellence and success for all students.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy said the term “”rigor”” referred to the quality of the curriculum; he said the curriculum was already challenging. Assistant Superintendent Susan Schultz said the curriculum is research-based and high quality.

Beth Sagett-Flores, principal of Lincolnwood School, said science and social sciences are short-changed because of the limited time devoted to those subjects. She said the curricula were good, and that rigor comes from teaching and clear differentiation of instruction.

The Committee decided by a wide margin to pull increasing the rigor off the table as a potential goal.