Mount Abe district rolls out its strategic plan
BRISTOL — The new logo adopted by the Mount Abraham Unified School District contains a subtle but significant inversion of the graphics. The blue M, yellow A and pink D are set against a white background, but the U and the S are themselves white, set against a green background.
The effect makes prominent the word “Us.”
Look for it. You’re about to see it everywhere.
But that’s not the story here. For the MAUSD this “us” is more than acronym luck or clever publicity. Nor is the “us” a group of people to whom things happen. It’s a “we” who make things happen, school district officials say.
Now, thanks to dozens of 5-Town community members, that “we” has a comprehensive Strategic Plan to shape the future of its school district. The plan has been circulating among the district’s six schools for the past month.
“For me it’s about clarity of direction and purpose, codifying a direction we’re going in,” said MAUSD Superintendent Patrick Reen.
There is nothing ambiguous about the timeline the MAUSD has set for itself. It says “2019–2024” right there on the cover.
“Is this ambitious?” Reen said. “Yes. That was the intention.”
WHAT’S THE PLAN?
The MAUSD has set itself on a course to achieve four goals over the next five years.
1. Expertise in learning: all students will achieve academic excellence.
2. Equity: all learning environments will be equitable, culturally responsive and inclusive.
3. Social, emotional and physical development.
4. Community: all students will build connections with local and global communities through authentic work that promotes citizenship and meaningful relationships.
Those goals are broken down into 11 objectives, which are in turn broken down into measurable targets — 23 in all.
Meeting those targets will require any number and combination of action steps, which are not specified in the strategic plan. Figuring those out will be part of the implementation process, but the MAUSD will not be starting at square one. The two years of effort that went into creating the strategic plan also produced a rich repository of institutional knowledge and creative ideas — including many potential action steps — which will provide a foundation for the work to come.
“In some ways the process is as important as the product,” Reen said. “The process was to bring the 5-Town community together. The product was to focus on priorities that reflect our community values. This document reflects both.”
Mount Abe senior Chessley Jackman was a member of the Strategic Plan Steering Committee.
“I really enjoyed working on the strategic plan and getting to contribute a student voice in a place that doesn’t normally feature one,” Jackman said. “In my 12 years in the MAUSD system, I’ve gotten to see immense change across the board and it was not only valuable to me but to other educators, for me to be a part of the creation of the foundation of these future changes. I hope that everyone takes a moment to look over all the hard work we put into it, and I encourage any community members or students who are seeking further change to participate in ways like this and prevent your voice from being underrepresented.”
Lincoln resident Sally Ober helped develop the strategic plan as a member of the Community Action Team.
“Superintendent Reen assembled an incredibly thoughtful team of people to develop our strategic plan,” Ober said. “The work we did was collaborative but also very challenging. We wanted to be sure the plan would address the wide array of stakeholders in our community.”
HOW WILL IT WORK?
Every year, the MAUSD will select two or three objectives to focus on.
Each objective will get its own Implementation Team — four to six people who possess the appropriate expertise and who are available to contribute. Teams will disband at the end of the year.
In succeeding years, new objectives will be selected for work, with new teams specific to those objectives.
Through it all, a larger Planning Oversight Team, consisting of 12 to 14 permanent members, will focus on bigger-picture stuff: monitoring implementation, engaging with the community, suggesting future focus areas, advising on resource allocation.
Community members interested in applying to be on the Planning Oversight Team should contact the superintendent at [email protected].
The district wants to get started right away, Reen said. If possible, he’s hoping to have fully staffed teams ready in time to hold a first meeting in late May or early June.
YEAR ONE: 2019–20
After considering input from faculty and staff in each of the district’s six schools, it was immediately clear which two objectives the MAUSD should tackle first, Reen said.
In the coming school year one Implementation Team will take on Goal 1 (Expertise in Learning), Objective 2:
“All MAUSD students experience an aligned, proficiency-based curriculum with varied assessments that measure and monitor their individual growth and outcomes.”
This objective, as one might expect, comes with several measurable targets:
•By the end of grade 2, 100 percent of students are proficient or above in additive reasoning and text-level fluency and comprehension.
•100 percent of students in grades 3–9 meet or exceed growth in English/Language Arts and Mathematics as measured by scaled scores on Common Core aligned assessments.
•100 percent of graduating students demonstrate proficiency in at least one measure of the Vermont Agency of Education’s Common Core Readiness assessments.
•100 percent of students meet the proficiencies required for graduation.
•In all assessments, at least 15 percent of students exceed the proficiency threshold.
“One hundred percent is the target,” Reen confirmed. “Whether or not that’s always achievable, it is our job to pursue that goal.”
A second Implementation Team will tackle Goal 3 (Social, Emotional and Physical Development), Objective 1:
“All MAUSD students apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to manage emotions, show empathy, maintain positive relationships, make responsible decisions and achieve their goals.”
This objective comes with one measurable target: 100 percent of students demonstrate expected behaviors successfully in a multi-tiered system of supports.
How much and what kind of support that system will require will always be the variable, Reen said, borrowing terminology from mathematics. What will be constant is the goals set out by the strategic plan.
BUDGETS AND BUILDINGS
The strategic plan does not address spending, nor was it designed to.
“We must ask, ‘How do we target our resources toward these goals?’” Reen said. “On a year-to-year basis, spending should correlate to the plan.”
Nor does the plan include strategies for dealing with the district’s numerous facilities issues, including a rapidly deteriorating high school.
“Conceptually, the way to think about facilities is this,” Reen said. “How do we make them support these outcomes? Do facilities support what we are trying to do or do they get in the way of these things?”
The strategic plan now provides a clearer context for pursuing these and other future issues, he said.
“My job over the next several years, whatever the competing ideas or conversations, is to keep pointing back to this document,” he said. “Because when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.”
The MAUSD also hopes to launch new school and district websites next year.
“Websites are great communication tools, and I think there are technologies we’re not taking advantage of,” Reen said, adding that he was approaching the project through the lens of “customer service.”
In addition to providing more consistent information for faculty, staff, students and parents, the district is hoping to customize the user experience by providing personalized calendars and notifications.
Ideally, the district would also like to build a phone app or customize an existing one, but Reen emphasized that this idea was still at the “exploration stage.”
“Over the past two years, teams of caring, knowledgeable and dedicated adults and young adults have spent countless hours working to articulate the kinds of experiences and outcomes we aspire to provide for the students in MAUSD,” Reen wrote in the strategic plan’s introduction. “This work is truly a cause for celebration. It is evidence of what we are capable of when our 5-Town community works together toward a common purpose.”
Dawn Griswold, chair of the MAUSD board, said she can’t wait to see the plan in action.
“It was challenging and exciting to be a part of this work. I really felt like it gave me a look at the inside workings of our education community. I was humbled by the work of the community members, staff and students.”
The MAUSD Strategic Plan can be found on the district’s website, anesu.org.
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].
The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)
BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)
See when your favorite high school team is competing in the fall sports playoffs.