Co-chairs of the Strategic Planning Working Team, Mr. Phil Kirk and Dr. Marvin Connelly, presented the work they and 38 others have been at for the past six months.
The proposed strategic plan includes vision and mission statements, six core beliefs, and a goal statement. Supporting these are six areas of strategies and measures that will generate progress to meet the goal. These areas are: Learning & Teaching, Achievement, Balanced Assessment System, Human Capital, and Community Engagement.
Bill Fletcher noted that the core beliefs are, “touchstones that will provide direction” and reflect the working group’s desire to, “address students, staff, and community.”
But it was the proposed goal statement that generated the greatest amount of discussion among school board members.
The number mentioned in the goal statement, 95 percent, was of great interest to board members, four of whom served on the working group. And great concern.
“I’m not a fan of including a number – it’s either unrealistic or manipulatable…I’m all for challenge, but I’m opposed to the number…the number is the least important piece of this,” admitted Dr. Jim Martin.
Susan Evans, a member of the working group, admitted she was one of the last to come on board with regard to using a number. It was listening to school staff and others talk about how helpful having a specific goal was, and their prior experience with “a very specifically defined goal” changed her mind. She acknowledged her worry about attainability, but stated her belief that a goal requires a stretch.
Co-chairs of the working group provided their perspectives. Kirk noted that the passion of the educators about having a specific goal “solidified my views and changed others.” And Dr. Connelly pointed out that across North Carolina and the US, it’s being done. School districts are graduating 95 percent of their students. He expressed his belief that if anyone can reach this goal, WCPSS can.
Taking it a step further, Tom Benton asked how the district would measure, “ready for higher education, career, and productive citizenship?” The Balanced Assessment System area of work describes goals that will generate assessment that, “accurately reflects students’ knowledge of core curriculum standards as well as the ability to collaborate, be creative, communicate, and think critically.” This includes a strategy to, “retool district K-12 assessment framework to include ‘4C’ measurement” and report that out on report cards. The “4C” approach is widely known and advocated for in education by organizations like the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and experts like Harvard’s Dr. Tony Wagner.
Supt. Jim Merrill acknowledged the sheer multitude of strategies and measurements presented in this comprehensive strategic plan. But he stated, “no single data point will ensure we achieve; no data will ensure we won’t.” It’s clear that WCPSS intends to approach the goal being set from multiple facets. It’s also clear that the district leader intends to use strategic planning as an iterative process. When school board member Keith Sutton asked, “Is this plan a five year plan?” Merrill responded by saying, “by 2019, we need to be working on the next plan.” Further, he noted that the planning process should, “always be overlapping and moving into the next one.”