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Public input helps shape district strategic plan

Part 1 - District crafts plan and anticipates changes students, staff and parents will see in the coming school year


Conveniently for an incoming public school superintendent, the arrival of Kym LeBlanc-Esparza in July 2012 coincided with the end of the district’s previous strategic plan.

LeBlanc-Esparza began her tenure by hosting a series of public forums with parents, students and staff that both introduced her to the community and gave her a chance to learn what Newberg expected of its public schools.

Those meetings, many of which were specifically focused on learning in the 21st century, provided much of the input LeBlanc-Esparza and her staff needed to craft a roadmap for the district for the rest of the decade.

Coming from Colorado, LeBlanc-Esparza approached the task with one main question in mind: What are the skills students need to compete locally, nationally and globally in any field, college, trade, job or career in the 21st century?

“That was the only real lens I used walking in, so I needed to hear from the community what they thought 21st century skills were and make sure that aligned with what I knew, all the research and publications were saying students of the 21st century will need,” she said. “I would say there was probably 90- to 95-percent overlap.”

Although both sides were quite close, what stood out to the superintendent and senior staff as unique to Newberg was the community’s emphasis on citizenship and being service-oriented, including digital citizenship, and also financial literacy.

Still, all the feedback had to be distilled into five priorities that were both achievable and verifiable.

“You can have 100 different priorities but you’re never going to do any of them well,” LeBlanc-Esparza said. “We really needed it down to five really big themes that would be our priority and then those would guide us building goals from there.”

Although not strictly written into priority No. 1, LeBlanc-Esparza says the district intends to prepare students for an ever-changing landscape by building what the district is calling the five Cs of 21st century learning: Critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and citizenship.

Teaching 21st century skills is mostly covered in the first of the five priorities (as well as the vision and mission statement), but LeBlanc-Esparza puts as much emphasis on the goal of collective responsibility that is at the core of priority No. 2.

Using an inclusive approach to crafting the plan was critical in her eyes, not only as the right way to do it, but also because accomplishing the goals of the plan will require high levels of cooperation and investment from all parties. That just happens to be one of the less tangible and therefore long-term goals of the plan.

“It benefits us all to make sure that our kids are successful because that’s how our community is successful,” LeBlanc-Esparza said. “Any time you’re building expectations, building culture and building processes to make that happen, that’s over a three- to seven-year period of time. It will take us time to do that really well.”

Supporting the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is both a critical piece to achieving the first priority and one of the actionable goals of priority No. 3, which focuses on providing high-quality instruction.

Among the plan’s priorities to receive immediate attention was No. 4, which calls for aligning resources to accomplish the district’s goals.

That effort started by having IT professionals audit the entire district.

“Everything that they outlined as a real critical need have already been accomplished,” LeBlanc-Esparza said.

Not surprising for a forward-looking document, the plan’s fifth priority calls for systemic and strategic planning to ensure continued success in the future.

LeBlanc-Esparza said she believes that intentionality, which the strategic plan represents, will be vital to any success in the near and distant future and says she’s seen that over the course of the past two years.

“The fun part of what we’re seeing is everybody starting to use the same language, recognizing the same priorities and recognizing that we should do nothing randomly,” LeBlanc-Esparza said. “We should have purpose with everything we do and it should all align with the same goal.”

Strategic plan for 2014-2020

Vision

Newberg School District students will graduate with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful, contributing citizens of the 21st Century.

Mission Statement

In partnership with parents and our community, the Newberg School District will educate all students to achieve their full potential as knowledgeable, self-assured citizens ready for college and/or careers.

Priorities

– Provide a high-quality, well-rounded and healthy educational experience to all students that is engaging, rigorous and culturally relevant.

– Build strong relationships with families, community and students to promote trust, support and collective responsibility for student success.

– Align resources to accomplish goals within a balanced budget.

– Ensure that every classroom has a high-quality, effective educator supported by strong leadership and staff.

– Plan systematically and strategically so that the Newberg School District continues to succeed and thrive into the future.



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