West Lafayette Schools Strategic Plan
One of the things that I would like to do if elected as a school board member is to focus on implementation of the school corporation’s strategic plan. My involvement with this document started in the middle of 2018 as part of the strategic planning committee which made recommendations for updating the mission statement, statements of belief, objectives, and strategies. That committee consisted of approximately 30 administrators, educators, and community members such as myself. Later, throughout 2019, the “Re-imagining West Lafayette School Corporation” committee (about 25 people this time) followed up on the work of the strategic planning committee by drafting action plans for the strategies. I served on this committee as well.
The strategic plan and action plans were recommended to the School Board which adopted them in February 2020, right before COVID upended everyone’s plans. The dates for various milestones were always fairly speculative and now they’re going to be delayed further, but that’s not critical as long as the corporation continues to make the sort of improvements contemplated by the strategic plan. The Mission Statement is high minded and ambitious:
Our mission is to engage students in a world-class educational experience that prepares them to be well-rounded, ethical, innovative, creative, productive, and adaptive citizens who shape our global society.
It’s very West Side in its scope. We’re not just preparing students for survival or getting them a degree or a vocation. We’re preparing them to live lives with meaning. This mission informed the Statement of Beliefs:
- Our students are our foremost priority.
- Highly effective faculty and staff are critical to our success.
- Parenting and family support are fundamental to successful educational outcomes.
- Public education is a shared resource and responsibility that defines and unites our community.
- Student engagement in learning leads to higher achievement.
- Academic excellence is the hallmark of our school corporation.
- Public education’s primary purpose is to develop educated citizens.
- Children deserve an equal opportunity to achieve their highest potential.
- There is inherent worth and dignity in every person.
- Students learn in different ways.
- Accountability is critical to the success of our school corporation.
- Involvement in extracurricular activities enhances the educational experience.
- School safety is essential.
- Public education contributes to the development of productive, ethical, adaptive, and healthy citizens.
The Statement of Beliefs (along with the Mission Statement) further informed the objectives, strategies, and action plans. I won’t belabor the whole document, but two points of emphasis which received particular attention above and beyond what they had received in the prior strategic plan were the ideas that we wanted a sense of ethics to inform our students, and we wanted to remove or at least minimize barriers to learning related to a student’s socioeconomic status.
With respect to the question of ethics, the committee grappled with the concept but did not settle with any precision on what that term meant. Philosophical considerations of ethics can and does form the basis of entire lifetimes of study. At the broadest level, however, the committee wanted to emphasize that our educational system should not just be teaching facts and figures. It should be giving students the background they need to become good citizens, and lead lives with value to themselves, their families, and their communities. One of the action items will be to form a committee that will focus more directly on defining a corporation-wide definition of what it means to be “ethical,” provide professional development to help staff and parents understand what an “ethical K-12 education” looks like, and create awareness of the concept for our students.
With respect to socioeconomic concerns, a world-class educational system doesn’t just mean a few of your students are among the best and the brightest. It means that you are consistently providing all of your students with a high quality education. And, if out-sized individual achievement is what a parent wants for their particular student, the fact remains that if all students are starting from a high base line, more of them are going to reach the highest levels of achievement (however you want that defined.) The Corporation will, among other things, conduct research to determine best practices from other high achieving school districts for ensuring that socioeconomic status does not form a barrier to education and collect data from our own district to determine what needs we are not meeting.
Those two items are just the tip of the iceberg to some extent. There is a lot in the way of studying, data collection, and fund raising to be done. We want to continue learning from school systems in other parts of the country and other parts of the world so we can learn from their successes. We want to enhance our early childhood education offerings. We want to identify sustainable short term and long term funding models. We want to identify any current sources of waste, grant opportunities, and areas where we can leverage relationships with Purdue and other community partners. If you take a look at the strategic plan, you’ll see there is a lot we want to do.
This is a big undertaking and, chances are, there will be a lot remaining to be done when it comes time to draft the next strategic plan. But, that’s not really a problem. Setting high aspirations will help us do great things even if we don’t quite hit the target. As a school board candidate, hoping to become a member of the board at this next election, I would love to be part of moving this process along.
Father. Husband. Hoosier. Lawyer. Candidate.
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