Core planning team report calls first-year progress on school district’s five-year plan ‘amazing’

It was a productive year for progress toward the Independent School District 728 2018-2023 plan, according to a presentation made to the school board on June 10.

“The progress was amazing,” said core planning team member Alba Meisner, who gave the presentation to the Elk River Area School Board. “The progress was very considerate, very conscientious, very deliberate. It was taken very seriously.”

The latest strategic plan, which was compiled with input from the public, was approved by the board in May 2018. A strategic plan lays out a route for the district and what it hopes to accomplish in the next five years.

Per the 2018-2023 plan, students in the district will “intentionally choose to acquire and apply knowledge and skills consistent with their goals and passions,” “articulate their dreams and create and carry out plans to achieve those dreams,” and “meet the World’s Best Workforce goals.”

In addition, the plan states that by 2023 “all children are ready for school,” “all third graders read at a grade level,” “all racial and economic achievement gaps between students are closed,” “all students are ready for career and college,” and “all students graduate from high school.”

The Core Planning Team met on April 25 to discuss what in the last year had been done to meet these goals.

“Part of our strategic plan this year is also about managing our growth,” Educational Services Assistant Superintendent Jana Hennen-Burr said. “It’s also about having high quality extracurricular programs and facilities that are equitable across the system and also taking a look at our district employees, a diverse staff that’s highly effective and engaged — trying to match our teaching staff to that of our student population.”

One of those items done to further the strategic plan was expanding the career and technical educational and experiential learning opportunities, Hennen-Burr said.

“In the last two years, we’ve really expanded the number of employers we partner with and we’re getting more and more kids out into a work setting,” Hennen-Burr said. “Another big initiative is beginning to look at our students, beginning to plan in eighth grade about ‘what do I want to be when I grow up?’”

Hennen-Burr said this means showing students what various further educational opportunities look like, developing career interest inventories and hosting career fairs.

The district also is implementing a new English language arts program to teach students to better communicate, write and read.

“(We’ve done) some training around a workshop model, which is how do you meet everybody’s needs, because not everybody is at the same writing, reading, or speaking level,” Hennen-Burr said.

District leaders are also working to improve social and emotional learning for students, which could include placing service providers at each building to supply those type of resources, as well as other programs geared toward social and emotional learning.

“We are beginning to explore a curriculum around mindfulness and emotional regulation techniques.” Hennen-Burr said. “Before kids can learn, kids have to know that they belong, they’re seen, they’re honored, that it isn’t just about the content. It has to be about the relationships and content.”

In the upcoming years, Hennen-Burr said the district plans to focus on facilities and what repairs or additions would be needed for the schools — including a possible bond or levy. In addition, the district will continue to progress social and emotional learning, as well as further the role of technology in the classroom.

Meisner said it’s “clear” the district takes the strategic plan and how to measure its outcomes seriously.

“There’s very deliberate attention to the metrics, the measurements and how they are being measured for year-over-year progress,” Meisner said. “Everybody was very encouraged and very grateful and excited to see what was coming next.”

Hennen-Burr said the plan was created by the community.

“We’ve listened to our constituents, we’ve put a plan together based on their needs,” she said. “What they are looking for is things we also believe are very important as we prepare students for the world. I think that’s what’s so cool about this strategic plan.”

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