ACSU outlines its educational road map for the next five years

MIDDLEBURY — Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) officials on Tuesday unveiled a first-ever strategic plan for Middlebury-area schools, a document that outlines expectations for student achievement during the next five years along with measurement standards to see if the plan’s goals have been met.
“It’s not just about student test scores,” ACSU Superintendent Peter Burrows said of the plan and the future of the educational system.
“It’s about the whole student.”
The strategic plan has been in the works for more than a year and is the product of many hours of work by ACSU administrators, educators, school board members and citizens. A steering committee guided the plan through a process that included several public hearings for feedback. What emerged was a 40-page report (including a generous number of photos) that is anchored by three, over-arching “foundational” goals:
• Educational success. It’s a goal that calls for “high learning outcomes” for all ACSU students, identifying and implementing teaching practices proven to have the greatest impact on student learning, and focusing instruction on what the district wants ACSU students to know as they advance through the system.
• Involving the community. The district will strive for more school-community partnerships and encourage a relationship of mutual support between schools and families.
• Developing the appropriate educational systems and tools to further student success. This will include retaining and supporting proven, effective teachers and assuring “equitable distribution and optimal use” of the ACSU’s resources to maximize student achievement.
“The ACSU strategic plan is a bold, progressive roadmap to guide us as we work together to pursue a more personalized, engaging educational experience for our students,” Burrows stated in his preamble to the plan, which will be available on the district website,
“There is much work ahead, and I look forward to working together to ensure all of our students reach their full potential in an exceptional supervisory union.”
The new plan includes specific actions to meet the prescribed goals, along with metrics to determine whether the goals have been met. For example, the plan calls for a process of determining what students should be expected to learn and a series of actions to ensure that objective is met. During the course of the five-year life of the plan, ACSU officials will measure the success of that particular game plan based on the expectation of an increased number of students meeting grade-level standards, graduation requirements and advancement to post-secondary education.
Specific “action steps” contained in the plan include:
• Entering into more education partnerships with academic institutions and community members.
• Providing more professional development opportunities for teachers.
• Developing a system where same-subject, same-grade-level teachers meet regularly to analyze student data from common assessments, to better inform instruction.
• Pairing each student with an adult advocate.
• Conducting more surveys to get ideas from students on how the school system might better meet their needs.
• Creating a team to research, design and implement school-based health centers.
• Creating more opportunities for families to build relationships with school leaders and educators.
Burrows noted the vast majority of action steps don’t require additional school spending.
Rick Scott, chairman of the ACSU board, was very pleased with the final document. 
“It’s an eminently thoughtful document, owing in part to the process which engaged many stakeholders,” he said. “I’m sure that the participatory process has contributed to the strong reception that the plan has received thus far.”
He also praised the plan for being very specific and comprehensive.
“I believe the strategic plan leads to fulfillment of our vision,” he said. “It’s ambitious — as it should be — however, I’m confident that our strong leadership team working with the staff, students and community, will be highly successful.”
As an added bonus, Burrows and Scott believe the ACSU strategic plan’s priorities dovetail nicely with Act 46, the state’s new law that calls for consolidation of public school governance. The ACSU has already announced plans to conform with Act 46, which sets up a district-wide vote next March on potentially reducing the current nine separate school boards in the district to a single panel that would, among other things, devise one annual budget for all of the ACSU-member schools.
The ACSU is made up of Middlebury Union middle and high schools, along with the elementary schools in Salisbury, Shoreham, Middlebury, Ripton, Weybridge, Cornwall and Bridport.
“It’s exciting that the anticipated effects of (Act 46) support the goals of the strategic plan so well,” Scott said.
Burrows pledged transparency and frequent updates as the five-year plan runs its course.
“This is going to be a living document,” Burrows said. “It is not a plan we wrote because we wanted to go through the motions.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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