Planning for the future
Forward focus, student facing
For years the motto of Alamo Heights ISD has been “a tradition of excellence.” In the 2008-2009 school year, student performance was strong, parent support was high, the school culture was healthy, and a new Superintendent was named. The Board of Trustees thought it was an opportune time to revisit who we are as a district and what we want to be, so the district launched a strategic planning process to chart our vision for the future.
Core beliefs and a mission statement were created, followed by a vision and six strategies to provide direction. Teachers, parents, community members, and students volunteered to serve on one of six action teams, one for each strategy. These teams met over 30 hours for 4 months to develop draft action plans.
The entire scope of the action plans in this strategic plan represented five year’s worth of work. Action plans fell into either one of five years based upon urgency, manageability, cost, and positive impact on achieving the mission. Each year, the strategic planning team reconvened for annual updates to check progress and to reassess action plans.
Analysis of 2009 Strategic Planning Process
This process had significant impacts on our district: opening enrollment in AP classes, eliminating barriers for children with Autism Spectrum disorders or children and families who speak Spanish, extending access to after school programs, enhancing course offerings for high school students in response to their interests, listening regularly to student and parent voices in course surveys, and a first in the area Wellness Counselor who deals primarily with drug and alcohol issues.
Beyond the concrete items, there are intangible impacts, too. First, a vision for our district provided clarity for our direction and it infused our daily work with meaning.
Second, the process strongly unified us around a common vision. The collaboration required in the process, including 30 key community members first, then over 250 community members later, created shared ownership of the vision and the direction of our district.
Third, the process transformed us in important ways. Now, we have a more pronounced emphasis on equity of access for all, including dimensions of special needs, language, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Now, we talk about and address formerly taboo subjects like drug and alcohol abuse. Now, we define excellence for children in terms of engagement in rich experiences and inspiration for life as opposed to the rat race of achievement defined so narrowly in terms of academics.
Description of 2016 Profile of the Learner
Even though the 2008-2009 strategic plan had significant impact on the district, there were items that we needed to address. The 2008-2009 process transformed our organization and the way we, the adults, did things, and it yielded important results for our students. It transformed the way we did things, but our vision of students in particular was not transformed. For the most part, we walked past a specific discussion of 21st century learning skills, like creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. Now, it is time for us to make our vision more student-facing and provide a level of precision that will spur transformation in the classroom experience of students.
We are now developing the profile of a learner so that we can visualize what a student will become as a result of the experiences we offer in our district. As a school community, the clearer we are about that, the more specifically we can target- or change - if needed - our actions in the classroom to create model experiences for our students.
About the Author: Dr. Frank Alfaro is the Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education.
Photos by Mark Humphries