District notes: New Year's resolutions for the District

Posted: Wednesday, January 05, 2005

It's that time of year when our thoughts go to New Year's resolutions - what we promise ourselves for the coming year. Setting goals is important to individuals to reach our highest potential. It is also important for systems. The School District sets its "New Year's" resolutions each spring for the coming school year. These resolutions are the strategic plan goals recommended by a committee of the Juneau community and adopted by the Board of Education.

The strategy goals for 2005 are:

Strategy 1

Graduation success for all

Examine and analyze longitudinal data on early leavers using findings to develop K-12 programs to ensure that all students graduate.

Strategy 2

Alaska Native student success

Identify, create, and promote school environments and programs that eliminate disparity in achievement between Alaska Native and other students.

Strategy 3

Healthy Attitudes and Behaviors

Provide a culturally responsive environment that fosters socially, emotionally and physically healthy students.

Strategy 4

Staff Development

Develop, implement and evaluate an ongoing, comprehensive staff development and support plan to improve teacher practice, school culture and student achievement.

Strategy 5

Communication and Partnerships

Promote effective communication and connections with families, the community and businesses and build partnerships to increase resources available for education in Juneau.

The strategies provide focus for the year. The strategy goals guide the work of the schools, district reform efforts and Board decision. Strategy teams develop action plans in their areas, and make recommendations to the district and to the Board of Education. As the goals of the strategies are institutionalized into the work of the district those goals are removed from the strategy list and are replaced by other priorities of the time.

Looking back 10 years at the strategy goals from that time gives us an opportunity to examine some of the accomplishments of the strategic plan process. The goal for Strategy 1 for 1994-1995 was, "Develop and adopt consistent, updated district-wide student exit outcomes and appropriate methods of assessment." The district now has standards known as the CORE in reading, writing, math, and science. The district developed math and language arts assessments of these CORE standards. The district assessments have since been supplemented by state-required assessments. Developing standards and assessments in other areas is still being done, but it is not a strategic goal as it is now part of our expected work.

In 1994-1995, Strategy 6 was, "Support parents, community and staff in the implementation of site-based decision making." The outcome of this goal was the development of Site Councils. Each of our schools has a parent and staff group serving as a Site Council within the parameters established by Board policy. These councils are important advisers to their schools and connections to the Board of Education for a school perspective on the Board's decisions. For example, on Jan. 13, each council will have a representative at a Budget Advisory Committee meeting developing advice for the Board of Education in their budget preparation.

This year's Strategy 2, Alaska Native student success, and Strategy 3, Healthy attitudes and behaviors, were target areas in the 1994-1995 strategic plan. The specific goals have evolved in the last 10 years, but the focus on these areas of need remains.

With my personal New Year's resolutions, some goals are accomplished for a period and become part of my day-to-day existence. But without focus I backslide and in future years they require targeting again. Similarly, in 1995, Strategy 8 was, "Develop and implement a comprehensive and responsive public information system and a formal means of facilitating internal communications." Our current Web site and e-mail systems were developed from that strategy. This year we are reexamining and revising that Web site to increase our responsiveness to parents' and the public's need for district information.

When setting your personal New Year's resolutions it is helpful to enlist the help of your family and friends. The School District does this for its strategy goals as well. Each year we invite community members to join staff on the Strategy Action Teams and then every other year we invite community members to review these teams' recommendations and plan for the future. If you'd like to participate in the strategic plan, please contact me at 463-1700, ext 215, or cowanp@jsd.k12.ak.us. Thanks to the many volunteers who are contributing already.

• Peggy Cowan is superintendent of the Juneau School District

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