By Ann Randall
A new focus on providing flexibility to teachers and local communities required a new plan to align the current district systems with Jeffco’s strategic plan. Superintendent Dan McMinimee convened a group of more than 75 students, parents, staff, and community and business leaders to help develop the Vision 2020 plan for making sure Jeffco graduates are prepared for the changing world.
The group initially defined the skills students will need. The first, Content Mastery, means that students are gaining the academic knowledge and skills they need at each grade level. The group also determined students will need Critical Thinking and Creativity, Civic and Global Engagement Skills, and Communication, all wrapped in a self-directed individual with a sense of Personal Responsibility.
The main group met over the course of a couple of months to develop the bigger vision. Then smaller groups gathered to set plans for each school and department in the district. It was deemed imperative that all groups work toward the same ends and see how the work they do each day will help students succeed. The new plan will require new leadership skills as principals and teachers get the autonomy to address local needs.
In order to reach the goals laid out by the vision, the district must make changes so that higher expectations and a sense of greater autonomy pervades its culture and climate. Leadership must clearly communicate the message that collaboration is needed, while at the same time allowing for flexibility and creativity. The plan envisions a “Principal Advisory Committee” that would empower shared local decision-making and encourage both cooperation and innovation.
The system simultaneously must support professional learning and measure outcomes. Assessment and accountability will be critical to recognizing achievement. The entire Jeffco team should understand how measurements will be used and how they align with expectations. By understanding the strategic plan, the Jeffco community will know how to evaluate progress and how the district intends to continually improve. Finally, true success will come from partnering with families and the broader community, including businesses and community organizations.
The plan’s structures were rolled out to principals and building staffs as well as departments. Rather than a top-down, one-size-fits-all solution for how to implement the Vision in each building, individual school staffs will develop plans that work for their teams. The shift will begin this year as each employee and student takes personal responsibility for meeting the expectations they have set for themselves, and then align with Vision 2020, which calls for students to achieve at least a year’s worth of learning growth in every grade.
It will continue to be the responsibility of the board and superintendent to oversee continuous improvements, but the ideas and solutions now will come from the bottom up instead of top-down. This type of change is exactly what the community has asked for—a system aligned to ensure a renewed focus on the diverse needs of students throughout Jeffco.