Year one of new plan set

Staff briefs board on Bridge to Excellence start

As the new school year begins, so does the first year of Independent School District 834’s Bridge to Excellence plan.

This year lays the groundwork for the Bridge to Excellence plan. The plan, which community members, staff and students participated in creating, is slated to move the district toward a 21st century learning environment. The implementation of the five-year plan comes on the heels of about 1.5 years of planning.

Year one of the plan features 94 action steps funded by changes made in the central services building. The steps are monitored by seven leadership teams that focus on four main areas: community connections, future learning, systems and supporting learning and growing and developing staff. Plans included with each of these goals vary.

“With community connections, we are hoping to engage our staff, parents, residents and taxpayers  to become more active within our schools,” said Superintendent Corey Lunn.

To do this, Lunn said the district would open schools to the community and create a virtual Pony community activity center. Plans for increased numbers of volunteers will take place and the district wants to reach out to the community to provide information they want in the ways they want to receive it. Lunn also said in his presentation to the board that district staff will coordinate their efforts to expand service learning in schools with a goal of having all district students involved in service learning by year two of the plan.

“The way our kids are learning today is very different than how we learned when we were in school,” Lunn said talking about future learning. “There is a constant supply of things to learn and a constant change of how things are learned as well and we have to change how we teach to fit into the 21st century learning world.”

Under future learning, Lunn said goals include developing a new curriculum review process to ensure a relevant learning process. Creating personalized learning “pathways” based on students interests and needs and exploring modern learning by identifying the experiences and skills needed for the 21st century is another plan goal, along with piloting a flexible schedule and learning spaces.

To fulfill the systems supporting learning section, anti-bullying and mental health training for staff and students will be implemented this year; increased physical activities and healthier food choices will be provided, and structures to ease transitions will be created and systems will be developed to support meaningful relationships between students and adults.

Staff development also plays a big role in this first year of the strategic plan.
“We know that the best teachers in the classroom lead to the best outcome from students in their education and we have many great teachers but we want to be able to assure people that whatever class their child ends up in that they will have the best teacher possible,” Lunn said.

A new staff evaluation process will be implemented and designed to help teachers grow their skills under the plan. Staff recognition efforts will be expanded and the district will move from a professional development to a professional learning model that allows teachers to focus on what they identify as things that they want to improve on. A pilot instructional coaching model will launch as well.

“If you don’t know where you’re going you don’t know if you’ll get there and I feel that this is going to be a great start,” said Board chairwoman Kathy Buchholz.

Contact Avery Cropp at [email protected]