Your View: Ushering in a new era of community involvement in local schools

Your View: Ushering in a new era of community involvement in local schools
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By Karen Graf, Chairwoman, Alexandria City School Board

To the editor:
Last Friday, Alexandria City Public Schools had a community event to launch the district’s five-year strategic plan, entitled ACPS 2020. This event was aimed at engaging the whole community and enlightening them a little about its mission: Every student succeeds.

Community engagement is one of the six goals laid out in the strategic plan. While academic excellence is our core business, strong operations — finance, human resources and communications — support ACPS in reaching its goals. We can have the best teachers in the classroom, but they can only be so effective when the infrastructure and institutional supports are weak. All departments need to be on point to achieve our goals.

This is why strategic plans like ACPS 2020 are important — they define the mission and vision for the organization as a whole. Strategic plans give employees, leadership, boards and the community at-large a sense of confidence and purpose. Only through everyone pulling in the same direction can ACPS see every student succeed.

The Alexandria City School Board has worked hard to improve public dialogue so that residents have an accurate view of what is happening in the school system today and what our plans are for the future. Through the ACPS 2020 launch event, Superintendent Alvin Crawley and his staff were able to share the six goals that a committee of residents, ACPS staff and school board members worked to draw up over the last school year.

It is healthy for organizations as large as ours, with 14,700 students and more than 2,600 employees, to be clear about the mission and then support it. Even with a conservative budget, the communications department planned a good event by using in-house talent, like the graphic designer and a video specialist.

When our board knew that we would be taking on this task, we budgeted appropriately in fiscal 2016 for the complete strategic plan rollout. The communications department budget helps ACPS advance its mission to support and promote every aspect of ACPS news.

How do you know we had a good event? We planned for 500 people, but more than 2,000 showed up. And they enjoyed the celebration of seeing so many other ACPS families and learning about the mission. But if you are one of the people that did not get pizza or was not able to make it through the whole event, we promise we will be ready for you next time.

Alexandrians, get ready for quality community involvement. Because this is what it looks like — even with a small budget and a small team. There are great things happening at ACPS. And we want you to be a part of it.