After 155 days and countless meetings and conversations between about 70 people, the five committees that comprised the Strategic Framework process presented a revised document to the Saline Area Schools Board of Education.
Superintendent Scot Graden said the document will provide a blueprint to improving an already high performing school district.
“Saline has a tradition and a future. And we look with pride in confidence in both directions,” Graden said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “The Quest for excellence demands a need for continuous improvement. Even the best can be improved.”
Each of the five committees, made up of school staff and administrators, parents, and other engaged citizens, was tasked with reimagining the five goals in the existing strategic framework, which has been in place since December 2009.
Here are the new five goals (click here to see the existing goals), which could still be tweaked and revised by the board.
1. All students will meet or exceed the Common Core State Standards in reading, writing, and mathematics by the end of grade 3 in order to acquire the essential skills necessary to apply their knowledge.
2. All students will acquire and apply essential skills to be continuous learners and productive citizens in an ever-changing 21st Century global society.
3. Strengthen family-school relationships and continue to expand civic, business, higher education, and community partnerships that support improved student achievement.
4. Enhance a positive school environment that promotes student and staff well-being, satisfaction, and positive morale.
5. District shall establish short-term financial stability and long-term solvency.
In some cases, such as goals three and five, there are no changes to the goal.
Goal one was altered to change “standards” to “Common Core Standards.” The phrase “in order to acquire the essential skills necessary to apply their knowledge” was added to the end.
Assistant Superintendent Steve Laatsch said the change was made to reflect greater expectations of young students. Laatsch said it’s not about performing well on multiple choice tests.
“It’s really about what students can do with what they’ve learned, and not about what they’ve memorized,” Laatsch said.
The changes to the second goal were similar. Not only will students acquire the “essential skills,” but they will now apply them -- not only to be learners, but to be continuous learners. And the goal was also changed to reflect the reality that not everyone will be “leader.” That term was replaced by “productive citizen.”
The district is putting more and more emphasis on the first goal in recent years.
“Everyone here has heard me say this many times, but all the data suggests that if a student isn’t leaving third grade with proficiency in skills, it’s very hard to remediate,” Laatsch said. “We spend a lot of money remediating and there isn’t a lot of money to spend. So we get the biggest return on our money when we spend it here (on K-3 students).”
To tackle the issues, the district is dedicating teams of teachers and specialists to who are providing individually-tailored literacy programs for kids as early as kindergarten.
Su Fen Lin is Director of Pooh Corner, the district’s preschool. She said that some students do not arrive at school ready for success. She noted it was particularly true of economically disadvantaged students, and she said there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of economically disadvantaged students at Woodland Meadows.
The district is trying to reach out to disadvantaged families to offer them a chance to take advantage of Pooh Corner through the Great Start Readiness Program.
Each of the goals has a series of action steps and ways to measure progress.
Graden said that turning to the blueprint into reality is a daunting task.
“I applaud the great work done by the committees. There are five goals and 27 action steps. There is a lot of work ahead of us. It’s daunting,” Graden said.
He said the board will need to prioritize the areas and then beginning determining how to turn the blueprint into reality.
“I’m a little bit intimidated about how to get this all moving in the right direction, but I’m confident these give goals will stand the test of time,” Graden said.
Trustee David Zimmer suggested using project management software to help organize and manage the multifaceted project.
Board President David Holden thanked the members of the committee for their hard work.
“But more importantly I want to thank you for your passion and commitment to our young people. It’s not by accident that we’re best place to raise a family,” Holden said, referring to the Saline’s recognition as best city in Michigan to raise kids.
Holden said the board’s focus will be to take the Strategic Framework to a “deeper level” and to “drive it.”
“We know it won’t take six months or a year. This is a multi-year effort. You’ll have our commitment. It may not always be easy or may not always be even paced. If we keep our eye on the ball, there’s a ceiling out there that we can still attain,” Holden said. “I’m confident that with the leadership of Superintendent Graden that we’ll be able to make that happen.”