District stays aggressive with strategic plan

by Jim Boyle


The Elk River Area School Board recently heard the “Reader’s Digest” version of the district’s progress in the first year of its five-year strategic plan.

The district’s core planning team met for an entire day about a month earlier to comb over the results of the district’s work on nine of the 35 result statements laid out in the plan.

The core planning team concluded two statements were achieved, seven needed more work and recommended adding another five to the workload for the 2013-14 school year.

The district, with the help of more than 300 people, prepared the strategic plan, which got approval from the board in May 2012. The task is to complete 35 or more result statements by 2017.

The first result statement to be knocked off came when the Elk River Area School Board decided to proceed with all-day, every-day kindergarten. The result statement called for a research-based recommendation to create an all-day, every-day program for every child.

“We’ve achieved that and then some,” said Jana Hennen-Burr, the assistant superintendent in charge of educational services. “We were just going to do research, and we’re implementing a program next fall for all kids. We are ecstatic.”

The other completed result called for research-based recommendations be presented to the board regarding the use of flexible scheduling to address the diverse needs of learners. Hennen-Burr reported pilot programs were launched in the spring and the plan is to make them fully operational in the fall of 2013.

The flexible scheduling is designed to help teachers reach all students who require information be presented in different ways. It also responds to the fact that some students don’t get a concept on the first and second try, while others master it right away and can benefit from enrichments.

The seven remaining results will be carried over to the next year, and five more result statements have been added to the list.

“It’s an aggressive move, but if we don’t push the system, we won’t get the significant change needed to change the cost structure,” said Superintendent Mark Bezek. “We have to change the way we deliver educational service.”

Bezek said the district wasn’t asking the board for approval at its June 10 meeting, but instead wanted to give board members time to digest what was reported out by various members of the core planning team.

Two down, 33 more to go

Strategic Objectives

By 2017

each learner will:

• Choose to continually engage in experiences that benefit community.

• Intentionally choose to acquire and apply knowledge and skills consistent with their goals and passions.

• Articulate their dreams and create and carry out plans to achieve those dreams.

List of Results

1. The strategic objective rubrics have been integrated into the district’s outcomes/standards.

2. **District employees understand our strategic objectives and why they are important to learner success and how we will measure each learner’s progress.

3. Pilot programs for gathering data on learner progress have been implemented, evaluated and refined.

4. Students, parents and community understand our strategic objectives and why they are important to learner success and how we will measure each learner’s progress.

5. A Learner Profile integrates data about student learning and is available in a user friendly format.

6. Data provides information on learner progress while guiding strategic decisions and collaborative efforts.

Strategy No. 1

We will continually identify, develop and empower current and future leaders to carry out our mission.

List of results

**1. Our Collaborative Leadership Team* has a shared vision of the skills, knowledge and dispositions necessary for successful leadership.

***2. Each member of the team has an individual leadership development plan and a process to track their growth over time.

3. The knowledge, skills and dispositions essential to developing student leaders (E-12) are articulated and integrated into district curriculum standards and are being taught through best practice instruction.

4. Our district provides leadership development opportunities for identified formal/informal leaders.

5.  Our district collaborates with community members to create leadership development opportunities.

Strategy No. 2

We will refine educational delivery services to meet the needs of present and future learners so they achieve our mission and strategic objectives.

List of results

1. We are continually implementing and evaluating instructional strategies, programs and schedules to ensure they result in high levels of learning.

*2. A research-based recommendation has been made to create an all-day, every-day kindergarten program for every child.

***3. All kindergartners attend all-day, every-day kindergarten with no fee assessed to parents.

4. A comprehensive plan has been developed and implemented for early education designed to ensure that all students receive the foundational skills needed to be successful learners.

5. There is a process in place for identifying the knowledge, skills and programming needed to prepare students for a continually changing world.

*6. Research-based recommendations regarding the use of flexible scheduling to address the diverse needs of our learners are presented to the board.

***7. Pilot programs related to flexible scheduling have been implemented and evaluated for efficacy and cost/benefit.

8. A comprehensive plan for instructional technology is being implemented that addresses resources and infrastructure as well as training, integrated instruction, online learning and accessibility for all learners.

***9. A set of standards for professional learning has been developed and is being implemented so that high-quality, differentiated professional development is delivered through multiple modalities.

**10. The use of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and Response to Intervention (RTI) is enhancing the achievement level of all learners.

Strategy No. 3

Do whatever is necessary to create and sustain a culture in which all members of our community understand, support and contribute to our mission and strategic objectives.

List of results

**1. District has a new name that unifies area communities in ISD 728 supporting our common mission.

2. The district continually shares its successes, instills pride and creates unity in support of the district mission.

**3. The district has established and utilizes a centralized welcoming center for new learners that showcases our district and its diverse populations.

4. Community members are using the welcoming center and online materials as a point of entry to register students, understand our district mission and opportunities available to them.

5. All new employees show evidence of their commitment to the district mission.

6. Community members are accessing resources and services from the greater community at the welcoming center.

***7. District has integrated the support of the mission into the evaluation of the employee performance.

8. All employees demonstrate a commitment to living out the mission of the district in their daily work.

Strategy No. 4

Collaboratively engage all resources of our community necessary to achieve our mission and strategic objectives in ways that are mutually beneficial.

List of results

**1. An organizational culture that values collaboration with parents and community organizations and agencies to achieve the mission of ISD 728 for all learners has been committed to and is continually being developed.

**2. A community council that reflects “cradle through retirement” has been established that understands our mission and facilitates an integrated community collaboration to help us achieve our strategic objectives.

3. An integrated database of community resources and partnerships is being maintained and updated regularly.

4. Parents of E-12 learners are active partners with ISD 728 staff in assuring high student achievement for all.

5. Parent and community literacy collaborations are created to: a. increase literacy outcomes for children birth to grade three b. provide enriching literacy opportunities for all learners c. create specific literacy intervention volunteer opportunities.

6. A system of career planning and career pathways (which includes the full spectrum of work based learning opportunities) is in place for all ISD 728 community learners.

* Achieved and operational

** Not yet operational and will need more time and attention

*** Added to list of results to begin implementation in 2013-14

Source: Elk River Area School District 2012-17 Strategic Plan document