“You can have all the School Board Goals and Comprehensive Plans you want, but without action plans, these will simply sit on the shelf.” Dr. Kevin Castner, Acting Superintendent, Shenandoah County Public Schools
Shenandoah County Public Schools’ Action Planning Teams held their kick-off meeting on October 14, 2013, at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School in Woodstock, Virginia. The collective commitment of the community to work toward the benefit of the school division’s students was evident as over 100 employees, students, and citizens invested time to begin the strategic planning process for the school division. This kickoff meeting was the first step in transparent communication to allow the division’s employees and community stakeholders to be a part of the work of preparing the division’s students for a future of lifelong learning. This was the first meeting in a process designed to support the School Board’s identified goals and the division’s Comprehensive Plan.
Four Teams have been created around the following areas, which are directly related to the School Board’s Goals for 2013-2014.
1. Teaching and Learning: building a framework for preparing students to be global citizens in a global community. Leader—Ebbie Linaburg
2. Leadership: continuously improving the effectiveness of school and division-wide programs and practices. Leaders—Stacey Leitzel and Dave Hinegardner
3. Staff Excellence: recruiting, retaining, and developing high quality instructional and support staff for attaining organizational excellence. Leader-- Mark Johnston
4. System Efficiencies: aligning resources for achieving efficiencies of operations and success. Leader--: Jeremy Raley
At the October 14 kick-off session, School Board Chairman Gary Rutz welcomed team members including parents, community, and business members. He expressed the importance of including all stake holders in this collaborative effort as the school division works to prepare students for a future in a global economy.
Dr. Jeremy Raley, Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Finance and newly appointed Superintendent of Schools (effective November 1, 2013), thanked team members for their time and their commitment to the Action Plan Teams. “I am excited you are here,” he said and spoke briefly about the important of communication, transparency, partnerships, and beliefs as action plans are developed.
Because we cannot know the future, Dr. Castner suggested that the mission of Shenandoah County Public Schools might be “to prepare students to create their own future.”
“We are a school system, not a system of schools,” he noted. We must aspire for “quality and equity” among our schools, but he insisted that equal is not always fair.
Dr. Castner said that we must determine “where we are going.” He explained that if we maintain our current “momentum” a gap will grow between where we actually are and where we aspire to be. Without vision and change, we will simply maintain the “status quo.”
He proposed to the group that a school system is “organic.” The world is changing, and he encouraged team members to deeply reflect on current models and structures and to decide on new “structures, models, and visions” and “to implement new plans.”
He reminded Action Team members to work together, to be honest, and to work as peers—that rank was not relevant.
His last PowerPoint slide read, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children” (John Dewey).
To the Action Team members present, Dr. Castner restated John Dewey’s words: “We have to advocate for every child.”
Following Dr. Castner’s presentation, Action Teams “hit the field.” They broke into their respective teams and the real work of the Teams began. Agendas included introductions, discussions of beliefs about education, and Action Team processes. Team work continued for an hour.
Action Team members left the kick-off session with a second meeting date established by each Team.
The game has just begun.