While the district’s goals for the new plan have not been set, officials said it will have a greater emphasis on students’ mental and emotional well-being, treating students as individuals to meet their unique needs and preparing children for life after school. Officials are cutting down the meetings required for the plan creation process in hopes of including more residents’ input.
Superintendent Greg Smith started the district’s strategic plan in 2009 as a way to align teachers, students, administrators, the CCISD board and the community to a common cause to excel beyond what they could do without a concrete plan. Since its creation, other districts have turned to CCISD as an example of how to create a strategic plan and see success from it, Smith said.
“The connection is there from top to bottom, horizontally, vertically, and I think that’s the strength of the plan because it is something that’s shared by all,” he said.
THE NEW PLAN
A group of about 30 district administrators, board members and other officials have put together a draft list of five strategies, the crux of the strategic plan. The strategies include making the district safe, implementing inspirational learning experiences, cultivating social well-being, expanding the district’s capacity to accomplish goals, and ensuring the community takes ownership of the district’s mission.
Those involved with the creation of the new strategic plan said it has a more mature focus than the existing plan.
“I think you can see a lot of maturity in this new plan as well as how we’ve grown during this planning process,” said Steven Ebell, CCISD’s deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
Board President Laura DuPont agreed.
“For me this year ... it just seemed like much more mature discussion ... because there were already five or six years under everybody’s belt,” she said. “It was almost like your starting point was moved up.”
The new plan has different focuses than the existing plan, one being mental health. The discussion around school safety and mental well-being was amplified after the Santa Fe school shooting last year, and such concerns are prominent in the new plan, CCISD board trustee Jennifer Broddle said.
The new plan also has a greater focus on knowing and meeting the needs of students on an individual level, including students who do not plan to go to college after graduating, Broddle said. It also focuses on inclusivity, achievement for each child and making sure students are contributors to society rather than just consumers, Smith said.
“We want our students to be leaders,” he said.
Broddle helped develop the draft strategies, she said, and she felt encouraged about the new plan’s goal to give students the tools they need to accomplish what they want in life.
“I walked away so excited and moved by the passion that I could tell we [had],” Broddle said. “We still value exploration and doing hard things and knowing we can support the next generation to do that.”
THE EXISTING PLAN
The existing plan, which will end next year, was originally intended to end in 2019, but in 2017, administrators and the board agreed to extend the plan a year to make sure its ambitious goals were completed. No one wanted to start a new plan before the previous one was complete, officials said.
“I would say we felt like this plan that we’re finishing was so overwhelming that we needed more time for full implementation,” Smith said. “We loved it so much we didn’t wanna give it up. We still feel that way to some extent.”
The existing plan had 31 action plans, or goals, that administrators and the board in 2017 parsed down to 24. Seven action plans were either combined with others or stopped entirely as the district’s focus shifted over the years.
“We realized that we set out some very bold action plans, and we discussed what we have capacity to implement and implement well,” Ebell said.
Of the remaining 24 plans, 11 have been completed, and 13 will be done by the end of the school year. The district has seen the creation of several programs and initiatives since the 2014-20 strategic plan began.
The existing plan’s fourth strategy ensures students assume their roles as productive citizens. The Leader in Me program, which teaches students how to be contributing community members, has been expanding to campuses across the district and is one example of a program implemented to meet that goal, officials said.
Another example of a strategic plan-inspired implementation is blended learning, which is an effort to teach students in different ways, such as with hands-on experience or technology integration, to match their learning styles. Other accomplishments include starting STEM and other science-focused programs and creating community-focused partnerships that create a sense of identity for students, among others, officials said.
Broddle was one of over 200 residents who helped create action plans for the 2014-20 strategic plan. She was not a board member at the time, but her work and seeing the district accomplish goals over the year partly inspired her to run for the board, which she has been serving on since May 2018, she said.
Resident Marie Michnovicz, who had two children in CCISD at the time, was also among the 200 volunteers. She has since seen positive outcomes from the district’s programs, especially in elementary schools.
“I saw some things really change and get implemented,” she said.
TWEAKING THE PROCESS
When putting together the 2014-20 action plans, more than 200 volunteers met for two hours a total of 11 times over the course of three months. There was inconsistent attendance among volunteers because of the heavy time commitment, Michnovicz said.
“It was too much,” she said.
The district hopes to streamline the process this time while simultaneously getting several more volunteers involved. After the action plans are set, each of the district’s 45 campuses will create their own campus plans using the strategic plan as a framework and foundation, officials said.
For the first two of the 11 meetings, volunteers spent time interpreting the intent of strategies before devising action plans to support their goals. This go around, the district will explain the strategies upfront, eliminating at least two meetings, Ebell said.
“Based on what was learned last time, I think we believe the process can be cut down to a shorter amount of time but still be very effective at what it’s doing,” DuPont said.
With a less arduous process, district officials hope more residents volunteer.
“When you include more stakeholders, you create more capacity for change,” Broddle said.
Smith said he is looking forward to how the district implements all the action plans that come out of the new strategic plan.
“This is exciting work,” he said. “I’m excited about the future.”