School Board Passes Strategic Plan

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It took six retreats, numerous discussions and middle-of-the-night epiphanies for School Board members, teachers, students and community members.

Now, the citys 17 public schools have a single, focused roadmap for years to come.

The Alexandria City Public Schools board voted unanimously on March 19 to pass the final draft of its strategic plan, finalizing months of brainstorming and tinkering in a matter of minutes.

I am delighted, excited and encouraged by the passage of the strategic plan, Superintendent Morton Sherman said. To pull together a plan with huge community involvement after six months is exceptional.

Already, the ACPS strategic plan is effecting in school-wide efforts as one of the primary sets of guidelines being used by the schools in developing uses for funds coming out of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Budget Supervisor Robert Watling said.

Anything the budget office does, or any plan or program or proposal or discussion folks have with me has to be connected to the plan, Sherman said.

With the policys successful adoption, school staff will now work to form an educational plan that executes the school divisions fresh, overarching strategic framework, Assistant Superintendent John Porter said.

After the original development and drafting process, which began last fall, among the 55 members of the strategic planning team consisting of people from across the city and not limited to the schools themselves the public was invited to provide feedback at a February board meeting and during a week-long online forum earlier this month.

School Board Chair Yvonne Folkerts cited the addition of science to the schools targeted programs for increasing achievement and participation and the articulation of the school systems commitment to character education emphasizing relationships, respect and responsibility as important amendments made to the original draft.

Board member Blanche Maness, a former ACPS school principal, underscored why she thought the science amendment was crucial in approving the final document.

I just cannot even think that we would not focus highly on science, thats what makes the world go round, Maness said. We want to strengthen our students to be the best that they can be in learning what makes the world go round. They should have inquiring minds.

I dont see science as just for those who are highly talented, but its what we need for our students to be good problem solvers, good thinkers and in everything we do theres science.

It was widely acknowledged at the March 19 vote that the processs high level of community involvement fostered discussion and a sense of togetherness, but Porter could not recall any one public comment that was not already addressed within the plan in some form.

Rather, the bulk of the ideas that came out of the online forum were more relevant for the work that is to come in creating the educational plan.

Though the work is now complete on one end, there is still much work to be done, not only in developing the more detailed educational plan but on upholding the social contract that exists within the document itself, one that Porter referred to as a living document that will be kept up-to-date and in mind, if not always in hand.

Its incumbent upon all of us, working together, to see that this document is not put on the shelf but produces real results for our children here in Alexandria, board member Arthur Peabody said following the plans adoption on March 19.

In its stated principles, the strategic plan outlines the schools dedication to educational excellence, higher achievement for all, as well as creating a culture of collaboration between home, school and community, continuous improvement and accountability, and environmental sustainability, according to the document.

Sherman said that the strategic plan has a great set of belief systems, referring to the goals of higher achievement for all students, individual support for students and operating with a global community. Those are some really lofty words that I think are going to have real practical implications for the work that we do.

One thing that I like the most about this document is that it moves us beyond the [Standards of Learning], it takes us a step past what has been, I think, the traditional thinking here and in other school divisions across Virginia, Peabody said.


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