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South Washington County School Board OKs strategic plan

One long grind is done, or just beginning, depending on how you look at it.

Next: the branding and sharing of a new strategic plan and how it will shape District 833.

"Together we are SoWashCo" is a redrafting of the five-year strategic plan called "Pathway to Excellence." The South Washington County School Board voted 5-0 to approve the strategic plan. Joe Slavin and Sharon Van Leer were absent from the vote.

District 833 expects to be "committed to igniting a passion for lifelong learning," according to the new six-year strategic plan.

"We did not alter the mission," South Washington County Schools Superintendent Keith Jacobus said. "There's not a major reason to alter it unless you didn't hit the mark."

In the revamped strategic plan, the district's core values are collaboration, continuous improvement, equity, integrity and relationships.

"You want to make sure that core values are easy to keep at the forefront of your mind," Jacobus said.

The district's focus areas are twofold: climate and culture, and personalization.

"With the personalization, and the culture and climate goal, we want students to come to a district and come into a school where people know them, where they know their name, where they know their interests, where they know their passions and their skills and their strengths," Jacobus said, "so we can personalize or adjust our teaching strategies to help them access and move to the highest levels of rigor."

Denise Griffith, director of human resources for District 833, said climate and culture for employees would be improved by professional development, recruitment of employees of color and employee recognition.

Ninety percent of employees — more than half of the district's 3,000 employees are teachers — will participate in at least one professional development activity in regard to cultural competency or enhancing work climate and culture.

At 5.6 percent employees of color, the district is more than 2 percent away from its goal of having a staff that is 8 percent employees of color.

Climate and culture ambassadors will be recognized by the district for making a difference.

Mike Johnson, assistant superintendent for District 833, said goals related to climate and culture for students revolve around priority statements about empowering shared ownership in learning, professional development around culturally responsive teaching, and the enhancement of teacher relationships with students, and — new this year — student-to-student relationships.

Brian Boothe, director of professional development and assessment, said the focus on personalization includes engaging, motivating and empowering each student.

"It is a partnership between the learner, the teacher and the family, and you can even include community in that, that we're all part of that," Boothe said.

Progress reports will help implement standards-based instruction, and students will better recognize their strengths and weaknesses via clear articulation of what teachers wants the students to know.

A shared ownership of learning will come from "bringing in voice," Boothe said, in the creation of a new student group meant to be trained to give feedback on "the future classroom of 833."

"Who best to tell us about the user experience, the learner experience on a day in, day out basis? We're going to empower our students to talk and to help us design what standards-based instruction, what their learning environment can look like, sound like, feel like," Boothe said.

Effective use of technology, not just access to devices, will enhance learning, Boothe said.

The district hopes to share and help the community understand a common language of personalization.

"Behind these objectives are action plans," Jacobus said.

Data will be discussed each spring, showing whether goals have been achieved or whether more work needs to be done.

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