Recently, a group of community and staff members worked together to imagine a new and improved Stillwater area public school district. This team spent more than 34 hours identifying core beliefs and creating a new mission, objectives and strategies to guide the district into the future. Their primary objective was to determine how to best meet our students’ needs not for our past, but for their future.
To help stretch our thinking, team members were asked to imagine how our schools could look differently. The “assignment” was to describe what a reporter might see five years from now after the school district had been identified as having some of the top schools in the country. Here is just a sample of what the group members imagined our students’ future would look like:
“Stillwater Schools have found the spark in their students. Through a transformational change, they have found the secret to learning. Student engagement and achievement have skyrocketed. Families surveyed after graduation report high satisfaction with teachers and programs.
“Partnerships with local business not only provide options for student engagement and work experience but strengthen the ties between the schools, families and local businesses.”
“All students now have equal access to skills and opportunities district-wide. This has led to systemic success because staff, parents and community integrated innovation that drove productivity using finite resources.”
“As I walk through the hallways of Stillwater Area High School, the pinnacle of the Stillwater Experience, one can sense there is an unwritten rule that guides students — it reads, ‘When you are here, you will get better as a person and as a student every day.’ ”
“Systems are in place to catch students and staff when they are in a rut or struggling. The system is a mechanism of growth, not punishment. As a result, the entire learning community feels safe to pursue their potential and take risks that could lead to greatness.”
“Teacher morale is reported to be at an all time high. They have found that the built in professional development time has allowed them to collaborate with colleagues and discover the resources necessary to create individualized learning paths for each student.”
“Every single kid had a light in their eye and a big smile on their face. It was clear that every person in the building was excited about learning. And what amazed me most is that this was public elementary school.”
“Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I stopped into a local cafe for a hot roast beef open-face sandwich. As I sat eating my meal, I heard a table of retired men and women and what they said was profound. In summary it was this, ‘It makes me proud to see the great tradition of community continuing as a result of our schools.’ ”
I was inspired by the stories they told and the depth of passion team members had for our schools. However, simply being inspired is not enough. Now is the time to make these dreams a reality for the students in our district.
With the work of this Strategic Planning Team as our foundation, now is the time to take action. Their work to establish a new mission and set new objectives and strategies has set an exciting direction for our district. The next step of the process — action planning — is where these dreams and ideas become reality.
I encourage you to sign up for an action team to help identify the specific tasks and timelines needed to meet the district’s goals. Action teams will be formed around the 10 strategies identified by the Strategic Planning Team, and these teams will meet from late October through early January. You can learn more and sign-up online for one of the action teams by filling out the online form at www.stillwaterschools.org/actionplan.
This is your chance to help shape the experiences of our students and our schools for many years to come. I am asking that you consider “Ponying Up” to join us on these efforts.
Superintendent Corey Lunn can be contacted via email at [email protected] and/or phone at 651-351-8301. Questions can also be sent to Superintendent, Stillwater Area Public Schools, and 1875 South Greeley Street, Stillwater, MN 55082. Register for Stillwater Area Public Schools E-News at www.stillwaterschools.org and click on E-News Bureau.