RFSD News: Seeking input in school visioning process
We value your voice and need your participation in our upcoming visioning process. As a public school district, our schools belong to our community, and our community gives us our direction. In early November, the Roaring Fork Schools are launching a visioning process to learn about your hopes for your children and the qualities you want to see in our schools.
This community visioning process builds on work we have been doing over the past five years. In 2013, we engaged 1,400 parents, teachers and students in a year-long dialogue about their aspirations for our students and how we should achieve them. The community told us they want their students to meet high academic standards, develop character and life skills, and be critical thinkers, collaborators and contributors to their communities. Drawing from the community’s great ideas, the school district developed guiding documents: a new mission, a set of community commitments for our children and our schools, and a comprehensive strategic plan to get results for all of our students.
Most of our work since then has been designed to achieve three simple results — that all of our students will: graduate with the knowledge, skills, and character to prepare them for future learning and work; develop the ability to complete authentic projects that allow them to pursue their own interests and be self-directed in their learning; and receive whatever kinds of support they need to meet benchmarks from preschool through high school.
With those ends in mind, the school district has invested deeply in teaching and learning. We articulated a model for best instructional practices in every classroom, revised graduation requirements so that they align with 21st century needs, increased and enhanced professional learning for all teachers, and, knowing that the best experts are already in our midst, incorporated more teacher voice into decision-making in every school. In an effort to retain talent in our schools, we worked with teams of teachers to revise our compensation package to make it more equitable and competitive, and we invested in staff housing so that our teachers could afford to live in our expensive valley.
With students, we have worked hard to increase their sense of belonging and engagement in school and to provide differentiated supports, knowing that students learn differently and need different kinds of help. Programs that were not in place five years ago include a coherent, districtwide approach to supporting emerging bilingual students in acquiring English language skills and a certificate of biliteracy to celebrate students who graduate with competency in two languages. All students are now part of what we call “crew,” a dedicated time in the day to focus on the development of character skills, social-emotional learning and academic goal-setting. Crews allow each student to develop a relationship with an adult crew leader at the school, as well as a consistent and ongoing small-scale peer community. At the end of their high school careers, all students now complete capstone projects, as a way for them to pursue their own interests and demonstrate readiness for independent work and study after graduation.
These examples only begin to account for the many measures of progress we have achieved since the community last gave us direction. And while we have made progress on so many fronts, we are aware of areas where we have more work to do. We know, for example, that many children lack access to early childhood education and vital wraparound services such as health and dental care. We want to be even more responsive to our students and parents and to more deeply engage them in the decision-making process in our schools. In November, we hope you’ll help us understand how you want to engage with our schools.
Therefore, we now want to check if we’re on course and hear where you would like to see us go next. We want to make sure that we are still working on the right things and identify any areas where the community would like us to shift our attention and efforts.
We will be hosting an evening meeting in each community over the week of Nov. 5. To make sure that everyone can participate, we will be conducting meetings in both English and Spanish and providing food and child care. If one of these meeting times does not work for your schedule and you are part of a group or community organization that would like to schedule a different meeting time, we can arrange that as well.
Please participate by attending a community visioning meeting and lending your voice to inform our direction going forward.
Rob Stein is superintendent of Roaring Fork Schools.
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