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October 26, 2015
Posted by: USD 373 Admin Published: 10/26/15


BOE Begins Strategic Planning Process


The Board of Education has begun its work on a strategic plan that will guide the work of the district for many years to come. 

At the October 26 meeting, board members began the work session considering a vision that guides "motivation for work in the district for the next 10 years." According to Lester Limon, vision is determined with the entire district in mind. It should not just cover the delivery of educational services to our students and should include all aspects of what we do.
To focus participants, Mr. Limon began with asking us to share the positive things about the district - what individuals liked, what others like, and/or what receives attention in our district. The ideas that were mentioned included: Career and Technical Education, Academies, Blended Early Childhood Education, Foreign Languages, Foreign Exchange Students, Range of Scholastic Opportunities, High Quality Relationships, Cum Laude Program, High A.P. Participation, Fine Arts Availability, Educational Partnerships with Higher Education, Hard Working Staff, Good Facilities, Good Fiscal Stewardship, Plentiful Special Education Programs, Innovative 5/6 Center, Programs at Walton Rural Life Center, Safety and Security, Generational Pride in Newton Schools, Plentiful Enrichment Activities, Community Business Support, Not-for-Profit Partnerships, Newton's Social Service Infrastructure, Relationship with First Responders, Relationship with Private Educational Institutions, and Quality of Leadership and Ownership of the Individual Classroom Teachers and Education Providers (in their work). You would probably have many ideas to add to this list! The list is not all inclusive and we have many things to be proud of in our district. 
Participants were then asked, "What makes these high quality programs and experiences possible?" Five words or phrases emerged from the dialogue that followed: relationships, curriculum, staff development, community values, and service ethic. As the conversation continued, Dick Koontz shared his thoughts about happiness and joy and his belief that joy was a feeling a person has when one is satisfied and content with where he or she is in life. Mr. Limon summed it up this way: "If we are lucky enough to help people find that which brings joy to their lives, then we are doing good work both individually and collectively."
Following this dialogue, participants shared several phrases that distilled the conversation to that point. One seemed to resonate with those present: the place to be. In his notes to the board, Mr. Limon wrote: "The phrase 'the place to be' was explained as a simple way to self-define the district from almost any perspective. It was suggested that a student finding his place either in the curriculum, in a particular building or classroom, or even in a culture, would find his or her 'place to be.' Likewise, educators moving into the district to work for the first time might find themselves in an employment situation unlike any before, therefore finding their 'place to be.'"
The vision statement becomes the crucible into which each decision can be judged or assessed. Mr. Limon suggests: For example, at the beginning of each board meeting the manta could be stated - Tonight we continue our work creating "the place to be." Or the mantra could be used before a decision or final vote between the group asking, "Does this action contribute to "the place to be?"
The participants concluded the evening's session with a dialogue about possible fields of inquiry. The participants did not finalize the fields but did suggest relationship, technology, staff, facilities, curriculum, finance, relevance, responsiveness, results, and rigor. Board members were asked to review the rubrics for the proposed accreditation model that includes relationships, relevance, responsiveness, rigor, and results. 
USD 373: THE place to be!