To create change, there first has to be a challenge of the status quo. Change stems from people willing to take risks, and above all, from leaders who are willing to make courageous decisions.
There hasn’t been much reason to change our schools in the past. But as part of a rapidly evolving world, our school system has reached the point where being very good isn’t enough. It’s time for a bold new direction for our schools — and that’s just what our new strategic plan is designed to do.
For the last five months, community and staff members have engaged in discussions about the future of education in our district. More than 220 people worked diligently to not only dream, but put together detailed plans to help us reach our goals. They’ve spent time discussing what has made our district great in the past, and what is holding us back from greatness for the next generation. They openly shared their concerns about the status quo, while courageously envisioning a school system that meets the needs of students tomorrow. Last weekend, all of this work came together into a new plan that will be undoubtedly change our schools as we know them today.
One thing I have heard repeatedly during my short time in this district is the strong tradition of Stillwater Area Public Schools. These comments, however, are often shadowed by a feeling that our schools are not as strong as they once were. Undoubtedly, many years of inadequate funding from the state and painful budget reductions have resulted in less support for our students and community. During this time we have been forced to do without while placing more expectations on our staff and families. Consequently, we have not been able to provide the support and attention needed in the area of teaching and learning. In a nutshell, we have been obligated to provide the same level of education with dramatically fewer resources, at a time when the needs of our students and families are increasing.
In spite of this, our students continue succeeding as reflected in test scores that remain some of the highest in the state. I can’t help but think what our students and community could do if we could recapture this sense of “greatness” and realize the past support for our schools.
Getting back to this proud past is not as simple as doing things as we once did. The world has changed and continues to change rapidly. What has worked in the past will not work for the schools of today or tomorrow. We are going to have to do things differently and let go of a few things we are doing now in order to grow and move forward. We have to create a new direction for our schools, students and communities based on our future, not our past.
So what does our future look like? As a result of the work underway, that picture is becoming clearer. We know we need to help our students develop an entirely new skill set. They must be able to produce knowledge, solve complex problems and collaborate in a flat world where geography, language and communication are no longer hurdles. They must be able to compete not just with their neighbors for jobs, but with individuals from across the globe. On the positive side the skills that made our country so great in the past — such as curiosity, creativity and ingenuity — are also coming to the forefront today. And with all of the new focus on technology and social networking, there is a renewed need for connecting with others, giving back to our community and providing service to others.
The Stillwater Area Public Schools of the future will meet all of these needs. We are developing detailed plans to help us:
ν Engage students and families in learning;
ν Create personalized learning pathways for each student focused on the new skill set described above;
ν Ignite students’ passions and curiosity;
ν Build positive relationships;
ν Expend partnerships in the community, and
ν Ensure our students are learning from the very best teachers possible.
With this I promise, although we may not look like the schools of the past, we will no doubt return to the greatness that we once stood for. I invite readers to learn more about our plan to restore excellence in Stillwater Area Public Schools and how you can work with us to ensure our schools stand strong into the future.
Superintendent Corey Lunn can be contacted via email at [email protected] or by phone at 651-351-8301. Questions can also be sent by mail to Superintendent, Stillwater Area Public Schools, 1875 South Greeley Street, Stillwater, MN 55082. Register for Stillwater Area Public Schools E-News at www.stillwater.k12.mn.us/subscribe.