In my September message I mentioned that we are continually examining our systems, structures, practices, and policies to continuously improve as a district. Our strategic plan articulates four core values that drive our district culture: Student Centered, Learning Focused, Results Oriented, and Community Connected. Our value of Community Connected focuses on parent engagement, public participation, and accountability and transparency. In fact, one of our strategic goals is to Engage our Communities. Therefore, we are continuing to develop ways to regularly and actively solicit and use parent and community feedback to inform our decisions and direction as a district.
We have three specific objectives tied to our goal to Engage our Communities:
1. Ensure proactive varied and consistent methods of communication
2. Implement methods for community and parent feedback and input
3. Develop transparency about our organizational work and performance
As superintendent, it is my job, along with our Board of Directors, to ensure that we are truly living these values and meeting these objectives. I am pleased to highlight just a few of the efforts underway for 2014-15:
Objective 1: Ensure proactive varied and consistent methods of communication
This year we will be working with the National School Public Relations Association to conduct a comprehensive communications audit. The audit provides a snapshot of a school district’s communications needs, policies, capabilities, activities and programs. It’s an assessment of the effectiveness of our current communication, engagement, and public relations activities. The process reviews communication materials and techniques. The auditors use focus groups to seek the honest opinions of citizens, parents, business people, administrators, teachers, staff and other key audiences. The audit process will begin later this winter, so look for more information in the near future. The focus group component of the audit is an example of implementing methods for community and parent feedback and input, which is objective number two. Keep reading for more related to our second objective...
Objective 2: Implement methods for community and parent feedback and input
In addition to utilizing focus groups in the Communications audit, we will be using a type of focus group, called a “listening group” to solicit parent input and feedback with respect to the middle school report card. Since the shift to middle schools in 2012, staffs have been working to implement standards-based grading practices at the middle school level. This fall, parents will have the opportunity to provide input and feedback on the report card changes that will be implemented next year.
Also new this year, we have solicited parent volunteers to participate in district adoption committees. Parents will work alongside teachers and administrators in committees to review standards, teaching practices, and materials for specific course and content areas.
In addition, this fall we will embark on a long-term facility planning process. We will involve a wide range of stakeholders to better understand the community’s desires and priorities with respect to school facilities. This process will involve a representative stakeholder task force that includes parents, administrators, staff, PTSA council, business leaders and community members, and students. The task force will engage with the entire community to solicit feedback, through in-person and online venues.
Objective 3: Develop transparency about our organizational work and performance
Last spring we made significant improvements in our budget processes and documents to better communicate about our resource needs and about how we use our resources to accomplish important strategic work. Prior to determining our budget priorities, we solicited input from staff and parents through program surveys. The input helped shape our budget and informed the final recommendation to the Board. My messages to staff and parents in the spring explained how our budget decisions aligned with our 2013-18 strategic plan.
The purpose of our 2013-18 five-year strategic plan is to be open and transparent about our organizational work and performance. The plan outlines our district mission, vision, values, and goals. The plan also communicates about our current student and organizational performance, and our target performance for 2018, based on key indicators. The plan communicates about the important work we are doing over the next five years to reach our goals and our overall mission and vision for students. This fall we will begin publishing an annual Strategic Plan Progress Report to share our progress in all areas. Look for it later this fall!
Dr. Traci Pierce
Lake Washington School District