6:00 PM - 7:00 PM Perkins School Open House
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM Middle School Open House
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM Open House at Kelley
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Board of Education Meeting (High School)
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM Lincoln Open House
Wow! The vision statement above, still inspires me every time I read it – and you should know, I read it at least once a week. This aspirational vision is not a statement about where we are – but rather where we are going and who we are striving to be. How do we get there? That’s the next step; and the work has already begun.
Last year in the Back to School Newsletter, I commented that too often in the education field we are reactive. While sometimes this is inevitable, we can (and should) take steps to ensure that we are moving toward the Newark CSD vision. In fact, one can argue that we are always moving toward or away from the vision – there is no standing still. So, I would rather move toward the vision and in order to do that, we need to know how to get there.
In the 2015-16 school year, a group of about 35 Newark teachers, staff, administrators, board members, parents, community members & local government officials came together over the course of 9 months and poured through data, read reports, learned about the process of creating a strategic plan and then helped prioritize what we should work on, in order to move toward our vision statement.
Using the language from Dr. Stephen Covey’s work on the “Big Rocks of Life”, our strategic plan workgroup came up with the following three “Big Rocks” that need our attention:
* Create a School, Family and Community Partnership to increase communication & connection as we build a sense of hometown pride;
* Provide diverse academic opportunities and experiences with high expectations for student success;
* We will support every student, every day, as our students and staff thrive in a district-wide culture that fosters respect, collaboration and connection.
As shorthand, we have begun to refer to these Big Rocks as:
* School/Community/Family Partnership
* Academic Program
* Culture and Climate
First, the whole strategic planning team formed workgroups based on each of these three “Big Rocks” and they prioritized a list of items that ought to be accomplished, action steps to take and/or goals to be achieved. The three groups came back together and shared these ideas with each other and we had unanimous agreement on the outline of the plan. Next, a smaller “writing team” was formed to represent the work of each of these three committees and to actually draft the District Strategic Plan, which the Board of Education will adopt before the start of school. Once adopted, the plan will be posted on our website. In order to be as transparent as possible, we will also post all of the data that the committee used to come to the conclusions about how to prioritize our work. The writing team felt strongly that all members of the Newark CSD community should have access to the same information that the workgroups had and we invite you to read the data reports, as well as the Strategic Plan.
It is important that you know the creation of this plan was a true team effort. This plan is ambitious and frankly, it probably contains more than we can do in the timelines we have outlined. Knowing that, we still think that it’s important to start the work. We need a better, two-way relationship with our parents, families and the entire school community. We need to strip our academic program down to the studs and rebuild it in order to effectively prepare our kids for the 21st century. We need to create a culture and climate that is fundamentally respectful of each other and primarily student focused. Without a clear plan, it’s too easy for an organization as big as our school district to get off track and that’s not acceptable. Our kids deserve better. They will be the beneficiaries of our collective work and they deserve a well thought out plan that puts our vision into action and helps refocus our efforts to help every student, every day!
I’m looking forward to the start of the 2016-17 school year and invite you to help us move toward our collective vision!
Matt Cook, Superintendent of Schools