At this time last year, I shared examples of notable activities and events, impressive student accomplishments and exceptional teaching. At the same time, I described ongoing efforts to expand our collective understanding of “success.” I remind you of this to reiterate my concern that success can breed complacency. By all traditional measures of school quality – test scores, graduation rates, college matriculation - our programs far exceed state and national benchmarks. Given the exceptionally high levels of educational attainment and economic prosperity in our community, I believe that these traditional benchmarks fail to adequately describe or assess our programs and provide little direction for growth. In order to transform this observation into action, our school boards have decided to embark on a long-term strategic planning process.
While the prospect of yet another strategic planning effort can induce yawns, groans and glazed eyes, our goal is to create a pragmatic, attainable roadmap to guide our work and to ensure that we continually improve the quality and relevance of our educational programs. To explain this effort to our staff at our initial meeting this past August, I used a hut-to-hut hike my wife and I took through the Presidentials this summer as a metaphor for the work ahead of us. On such hikes, the maps at the trailheads always show the bold arrow indicating that “You Are Here,” and then a color-coded web of possible paths through the mountains to a hearty meal and a place to sleep. Of course, the map only hints at the challenges that lie between your first step and last – steep climbs and descents, sudden changes in weather conditions, unmapped detours, bug bites, and twisted ankles to list a few. As we plan our hike, we consider our starting point, our destination, and our route – Where are we now? Where do we want to go? How will we get there? We decide what equipment and supplies we’ll need, we prepare for the unexpected, we stuff our packs and set off.
For the purposes of our strategic planning effort, our boards have committed to a curriculum audit and a facilities review to help determine “where we are now.” In order to determine “where we want to go,” next steps will include the development of our vision, which we will achieve by creating a “portrait of a graduate,” and agreement on goals in the areas of education, facilities, operations, finance, and governance. Along the way, we will consider the challenges we face in each of these areas and turn to our stake-holders for insight. We hope to include as many different community perspectives as possible as we work through the process, so please be alert for invitations to participate. Our initial phase of data gathering should be finished in April, and we hope to accomplish the bulk of our planning in time for next year’s budget process.
Finally, I am pleased to inform you that the leadership transitions I reported on last year have gone exceedingly well. Tim Boyle and Anissa Morrison have successfully assumed their new roles as Principal and Associate Principal at Richmond Middle School, as have Shawn Gonyaw and Greg Bagnato at Marion Cross. While such transitions canbe stressful for everyone involved, I am deeply appreciative of the patience and flexibilty of our school communities, as they have graciously supported our new teams.
Your generous support of our schools ensures that we are able to provide an excellenteducation for our children. It is my privilege to serve as superintendent for a community that so deeply values teaching and learning.