Great Schools Together: a few sidenotes

When I started this series, it was my desire to track down various metrics outlined in the Strategic Plan to measure progress. I have encountered some serious obstacles in that effort.


The first set of obstacles comes from the fact that while Unit 4 does a TON of reporting and “information sharing”, there is no central repository or index of where to find such metrics. Some are much easier to find than others, just by a google search of the site; for instance, “Attendance Rate”. Yet even with this, you will have to dig through seperate documents for each year, as Attendance Rate is not aggregated that I know of. You can find it in Board Meetings, the district Report Card and various committe reports. What about metrics on discpline issues (“Discipline referrals and suspensions” from “Student Achievement and Well-Being”)? That information is shared at the “Discipline Equity/Advisory Task Force Meeting”, but it isn’t online, so the only way to get the updates is to attend the meeting. After a bit of searching on boarddocs, I did stumble across a Board Retreat presentation that aggregated numbers over various years:

Click to access 06%2024%2013_Monday_Noon_Revision5.pdf


When I asked Unit 4 for advice on how to find each of the 50 metrics outlined in the Strategic Plan, I was told that all the relevant information was shared out on the website and boarddocs.


The next set of obstacles is the fact that Uit 4 paints a moving target. In a recent email exchange, Stephanie Stuart indicated tha these metrics are “determined each year by the Board of Education”. Some times the name/label changes, other times they are dropped and new ones added.


On the plus side, Dr. Wiegand has wrapped each of the six GST Strategic Goals into her Superintendent Goals:

GOAL #1: The Superintendent will foster high academic achievement, wellness, and well-being among all learners in a safe, supportive environment.
GOAL #2: The Superintendent will align the District’s priorities and resources through a community-involved planning process implemented through focused action plans with regular progress reports.
GOAL #3: The Superintendent will retain, hire, and support highly qualified faculty and staff that will best serve the District’s diverse student population.
GOAL #4: The Superintendent will effectively and efficiently engage parents and other community stakeholders resulting in strong partnerships.
GOAL #5: The Superintendent will leverage the strength of the District’s diverse population to create a rich academic and social environment in each of the District’s schools.
GOAL #6: The Superintendent will revitalize, build, and maintain facilities that are safe, sustainable and allow equitable access to programming services across the District.


I think it speaks volumes that Unit 4 holds the tenets of the Strategic Plan in such high regards. In the words of Stephanie Stuart, “all that we do here in Unit 4 is responsive to that plan.”

Planning for the future

On Monday, March 10th, the BOE will hold a regular board meeting. According to the Agenda that is posted on boarddocs, it looks like a very short meeting (depending on how long people talk *grin*).

One of the items that caught my attention is the Spotlight Video titled “Community Involved Planning*”. I have asked if this video is available prior to the meeting and at the time of this writing, I have not heard back. Community Involved Planning is crucial for the stakeholders to take ownership of their school district. However, I think the tricky part is 1) we do not have a good sense of what this actually entails, and 2) those that do have a good sense of the work involved might just disagree on how to implement it. My perspective is that community involved planning is tedious, inefficient and downright messy. I say this not to slam such planning, but rather to be realistic and say we need to embrace planning as a whole community despite the challenges before us. I firmly believe the “bang for the buck” is well worth the cost.

*NOTE: “Community Involved Planning” comes straight out of Goal #2 of the District’s Goals. In fact, a number of the recent Spotlight Videos have been highlighting various goals from this page.

Speaking of “bang for the buck”, the sole item under “New Business” is a Quality Learning Environment Outcomes (QLEO) analysis report done by BLDD and the Facilities Committee. Most of the report deals with measuring the “Cost Benefit Ratio” (aka, CBR or “bang for the buck”) of various future school scenarios. For instance, 3 middle schools versus 4 with some variation of one or more K-8 schools. Or how to repurpose the building that currently houses Central once Central moves. I give props for folks thinking a little outside the box to come up with “Live/Work” ideas for the building – it sounds like crazy stuff! 🙂 Essentially, the Facilities Committee has whittled down a list of about 20 scenario options down to their favorite three; two involving three middle schools and a K-8, one with four middle schools. The high school options all pretty much stay the same. The “Lifecycle costs” of these options are going to blow your mind.

Also, as of this moment, the BLDD presentation shows that the high schools will have a capacity for 1500 students, but we really need a total of 3207 by 2022, and DeJong-Richter originally called for 1600 students at each high school. Odd. Matt Foster says he is looking into it.

And now we circle back to “community involved planning”. Recently, the one big push for “community involvement” was via DeJong-Richter. Prior to that, Great Schools Together. Both efforts had various levels of success (which varies widely depending on whom you talk to). It makes me very curious what this video is going to say. What is hard for me to determine is what our community really needs. I have my own thoughts (ie, we need a TON more involvement), and I have talked with a number of folks, some who agree and some who disagree (saying the district has tried, and in fact will continue to try, to get community involvement). On that note, Pattsi sent me a link about the “informed city” (which took place on March 4th) as a build-up to United Nations Habitat World Urban Forum; fascinating ideas, but I am left with “so what are the action steps?” What comes out of all this awesome dialogue and interaction?

For those interested, the only two documents available at the Facility Committee website are two meeting minutes, which give a little bit of an idea how the Committee debated various options over the last few months in 2013: