School district readying its strategy in five areas | SierraSun.com

School district readying its strategy in five areas

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

In conjunction with the Education Matters project and the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’s desire to better its campuses, the school board has finalized a strategic plan aimed at boosting student achievement and staff success.

Five priority areas of focus were decided upon this month and school board members are working to develop the goals and plan effective implementation.

The strategic plan, which is meant to serve as a district guide for the next three to five years, is important, said Superintendent Dennis Williams, because it gives staff flexible direction and sets tangible goals.

“I’m starting my fourth year as superintendent and I have never had such clear direction from the board as what I have here, and I look forward to working with the board and staff to make these objectives a reality,” Williams said.

The school district’s goals do not mirror the goals of the Education Matters project, but rather serve as a broader picture under which the community’s desires can be filed. The board noted that they were conscious of how the community’s goals and the board’s goals could be woven together to make both large and small differences.

“We wanted to loop back and make sure that we’ve covered everything that was important to the community,” said school board member Bev Ducey. “All eight of their priorities fit under our five goals and are going to tie in very, very strongly.”

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One of the district’s goals is to produce “outstanding student achievement,” under which the Education Matters goals of expanding individualized instruction and developing successful language programs can be addressed. Both groups agreed that staff recruitment, retention and development are important issues to be tackled. The Education Matters team was also concerned that children are cared for beyond the academic realm.

Weaving those goals together means that the financial and scheduling needs of teachers will need to be addressed so that educators can live comfortably at home and maintain high morale and dedication in the classroom. It means that classroom environments will need to be academically enriching as well as emotionally and mentally stimulating for students.

“Some of the achievement gap and [academic] targets need to be looked at as a political issue,” said board member Pat Gibbons-Johnson. “California standards are the toughest in the country. It makes some goals unrealistic at this point, and I think it’s important to say that.

“There are a lot of things pressuring teachers and administrators to hit targets that are unrealistic and a lot of people are working very hard to get kids to do things that might be too hard for them and we need to be tolerant of that too. We are talking about the whole child, not just reading and math.”

A major goal that is being addressed by the board but not by Education Matters is fiscal accountability. The district’s budget is growing by the year, but so are financial obligations.

“This is about making sure that we are putting our money where our mouth is. Of course, there are needs that might not fit neatly,” Ducey said. “Two big issues facing us is that we need to start putting money away for our employee retirement benefits liability, which is a $6 million liability that we want to put in place by 2009. Our other goal is to have a 5 percent reserve by 2010.”

Meanwhile, teachers, bus drivers, librarians and other employees are clamoring for a greater slice of the pie as well, noting that their pay does not match the cost of living.

There are lists of objectives that go along with the board’s five main priorities, but they are still being developed and are subject to change as needed, Williams said.

In late spring, nearly a dozen community forums called Education Matters (EM) were held in Truckee and on the North Shore where parents, educators and students gathered to discuss educational needs and desires. They identified eight priorities that were considered by the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District (TTUSD) board as the district was developing its own strategic plan.

The school board came up with five of its own priorities, and categorized the Education Matters findings under each one.

– TTUSD 1: Diverse and rigorous program philosophy

– Education Matters: Individualized Instruction

– EM: Diverse Curriculum

– EM: Safe Healthy Environment

– EM: The Whole Child

– EM: Preparation for Life

– EM: Integrated cultures and second language programs

– TTUSD 2: Outstanding student achievement

– EM: Individualized Instruction

– EM: Integrated cultures and second language programs

– TTUSD 3: Quality staff

– EM: Quality Teachers

– TTUSD 4: Effective leadership and culture

– EM: Integrated cultures and second language programs

– EM: Effective leadership and management

– TTUSD 5: Fiscal accountability