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On Sept. 8, the District 65 School Board discussed a draft of a new mission statement for the District and five framework categories to guide the development of the District’s next three-year strategic plan. The Board also discussed the process to develop the plan. The timeline calls for the plan to be approved by the Board in April 2015.

While the process calls for a total of approximately 75 persons to serve on an advisory committee or one of five working committees, the District also plans to actively solicit input from all persons in the community throughout the process.

“We’re looking for lots of involvement,” said School Board member Candance Chow, who has been working with administrators in developing the strategic plan process. (See Guest Essay on page 27.)

The Draft Mission Statement

District 65’s current mission statement, adopted in July 2009, is: “Educating each student to succeed in and contribute to our global community by cultivating creativity, compassion and the pursuit of excellence.”

The proposed new draft mission statement is: “Through the collective efforts of students, educators, family and community, we will inspire and prepare each student to achieve academically, grow personally, and contribute positively to our global society by providing an engaging and enriching educational experience in a creative and collaborative environment. Every Child, Every Day, Whatever It Takes.”

One significant change is the focus on “collective efforts” and providing a “collaborative” environment.

Maria Allison, the District’s chief strategy officer, said an initial draft of a mission statement was put together based on input gathered from stakeholder surveys and interviews conducted as part of the 2013-14 search for a new superintendent; Superintendent Paul Goren’s listening tour with community partners in June-August 2014; and discussions with District 65 Board members, school leaders, administrators, and educators in June-August.

The initial draft was revised (to that quoted above) based on feedback from members of the School Board and others.

The feedback on the initial draft “was around wanting a vision statement that was aspirational, that’s really focused on District 65 students and what we hope to see for them as a result of being students in our District and something that would really represent the relationship of the District to the larger community and potential partnerships with them,” said Dr. Allison.

On Sept. 9, Board members said they liked the revised draft, and the discussion focused on the word “we” in the phrase “we will inspire and prepare…” Claudia Garrison asked if “we” meant administrative staff and the Board. “Who are we encompassing?” she asked.

Richard Rykhus said, “I feel like it’s everybody. It’s the community.” Omar Brown said, “I like it the way it stands. You sort of interpret it for yourself. It’s we, me. It’s we, us.”

Dr. Allison said the draft mission statement will be posted on the Board’s website and that people in the community are encouraged to submit comments or suggested language by emailing them to input@district65.net by Sept. 26. She added that the draft mission statement will also be posted at the schools and people could submit comments in writing.

Mr. Rykhus suggested that the District reach out to social agencies and faith-based communities to seek input from persons who might not normally respond. He also suggested that the District be sensitive to ways to seek input from non-English speaking persons. Administrators said they would follow up on these suggestions.

The feedback will be used to prepare revisions to the draft that will be presented to the Board for approval at its Oct. 20 meeting.

Framework Categories and Working Committees

Dr. Allison said five “framework categories” will guide development of the strategic plan:

• High Quality Teaching and Learning

• Thriving Workforce

• Safe and Supportive School Climate

• Family and Community Engagement

• Financial Sustainability

The five framework categories are generally aligned with the 5Essentials for successful schools that were developed by the Consortium on Chicago School Research. (See sidebar)

Five “working committees” will be organized, one for each framework category, said Dr. Allison. Each committee “will sit down to think about core issues, District priorities, and things that are happening in education,” she said. They will be responsible for establishing a goal for their category, and for articulating three to five strategies to advance the goal.

Each working committee will be composed of between 10 and 12 persons. Each committee will have at least one principal, one teacher, one District 65 parent, one administrator, one subject-matter expert, and, ideally, one School Board member. Additional members will be selected from interested stakeholders with consideration given to diversity and relevant experience, said Dr. Allison.

Each committee will be co-chaired by a District 65 senior staff member and a member of the committee nominated by Dr. Goren and Ms. Chow.

Each committee will meet at least four times over an eight-week period. It is anticipated that the members of each committee will also research and write outside meeting times.

External Advisory Committee

An “External Advisory Committee” (EAC), composed of approximately 20 persons, will be convened to provide “perspective and really critical input at three key points” in the process, said Dr. Allison.

First, prior to the launch of the committees, EAC will weigh in on what they perceive to be key issues in each of the framework categories.

Second, EAC will weigh in on draft goals and strategies as they are emerging at the working committee level.

Third, EAC will provide input on a draft strategic plan as it comes together.

Formation of the Committees

The District is inviting nominations for participation on the five working committees and on the EAC.

Persons may nominate themselves or others for any committee by sending an email to input@district65.net by Sept. 26. Instructions on how to apply are available at www.district65.net. Dr. Goren, Ms. Chow and the committee co-chairs will review the nominations and create committee rosters. The plan is to launch the committees during the week of Oct. 27.

Dr. Goren said there will be opportunities for people who do not serve on a committee to voice their opinions during the process. The District plans to provide updates and invite continuous feedback on its website.

The 5Essentials for School Success

The 5Essentials are based on extensive studies of Chicago schools by researchers with the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) at the University of Chicago and reported in their book, “”Organizing Schools for Improvement.”” They found there are five essential components for school success: effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, a student-centered learning climate and ambitious instruction. 

What the study found was that schools that measured strong in all five areas were at least 10 times more likely than schools with just one or two strengths to achieve substantial gains in reading and math.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...