(General programming note for blog readers in the West Lafayette school district: I am a candidate in the 2020 West Lafayette School Board election. There are four seats open, and I would like to fill one of them. If you want to know more about my campaign, ask questions, request a yard sign, please go to https://masson.us/schoolboard.)
One of the things that I would like to do if elected as a school board member is to focus on implementation of the school corporation’s strategic plan. My involvement with this document started in the middle of 2018 as part of the strategic planning committee which made recommendations for updating the mission statement, statements of belief, objectives, and strategies. That committee consisted of approximately 30 administrators, educators, and community members such as myself. Later, throughout 2019, the “Re-imagining West Lafayette School Corporation” committee (about 25 people this time) followed up on the work of the strategic planning committee by drafting action plans for the strategies. I served on this committee as well.
The strategic plan and action plans were recommended to the School Board which adopted them in February 2020, right before COVID upended everyone’s plans. The dates for various milestones were always fairly speculative and now they’re going to be delayed further, but that’s not critical as long as the corporation continues to make the sort of improvements contemplated by the strategic plan. The Mission Statement is high minded and ambitious:
Our mission is to engage students in a world-class educational experience that prepares them to be well-rounded, ethical, innovative, creative, productive, and adaptive citizens who shape our global society.
It’s very West Side in its scope. We’re not just preparing students for survival or getting them a degree or a vocation. We’re preparing them to live lives with meaning. This mission informed the Statement of Beliefs:
Our students are our foremost priority.
Highly effective faculty and staff are critical to our success.
Parenting and family support are fundamental to successful educational outcomes.
Public education is a shared resource and responsibility that defines and unites our community.
Student engagement in learning leads to higher achievement.
Academic excellence is the hallmark of our school corporation.
Public education’s primary purpose is to develop educated citizens.
Children deserve an equal opportunity to achieve their highest potential.
There is inherent worth and dignity in every person.
Students learn in different ways.
Accountability is critical to the success of our school corporation.
Involvement in extracurricular activities enhances the educational experience.
School safety is essential.
Public education contributes to the development of productive, ethical, adaptive, and healthy citizens.
The Statement of Beliefs (along with the Mission Statement) further informed the objectives, strategies, and action plans. I won’t belabor the whole document, but two points of emphasis which received particular attention above and beyond what they had received in the prior strategic plan were the ideas that we wanted a sense of ethics to inform our students, and we wanted to remove or at least minimize barriers to learning related to a student’s socioeconomic status.
With respect to the question of ethics, the committee grappled with the concept but did not settle with any precision on what that term meant. Philosophical considerations of ethics can and does form the basis of entire lifetimes of study. At the broadest level, however, the committee wanted to emphasize that our educational system should not just be teaching facts and figures. It should be giving students the background they need to become good citizens, and lead lives with value to themselves, their families, and their communities. One of the action items will be to form a committee that will focus more directly on defining a corporation-wide definition of what it means to be “ethical,” provide professional development to help staff and parents understand what an “ethical K-12 education” looks like, and create awareness of the concept for our students.
With respect to socioeconomic concerns, a world-class educational system doesn’t just mean a few of your students are among the best and the brightest. It means that you are consistently providing all of your students with a high quality education. And, if out-sized individual achievement is what a parent wants for their particular student, the fact remains that if all students are starting from a high base line, more of them are going to reach the highest levels of achievement (however you want that defined.) The Corporation will, among other things, conduct research to determine best practices from other high achieving school districts for ensuring that socioeconomic status does not form a barrier to education and collect data from our own district to determine what needs we are not meeting.
Those two items are just the tip of the iceberg to some extent. There is a lot in the way of studying, data collection, and fund raising to be done. We want to continue learning from school systems in other parts of the country and other parts of the world so we can learn from their successes. We want to enhance our early childhood education offerings. We want to identify sustainable short term and long term funding models. We want to identify any current sources of waste, grant opportunities, and areas where we can leverage relationships with Purdue and other community partners. If you take a look at the strategic plan, you’ll see there is a lot we want to do.
This is a big undertaking and, chances are, there will be a lot remaining to be done when it comes time to draft the next strategic plan. But, that’s not really a problem. Setting high aspirations will help us do great things even if we don’t quite hit the target. As a school board candidate, hoping to become a member of the board at this next election, I would love to be part of moving this process along.
Ah strategic plans…So full of good intentions and so short on actionable items.
Paddy -I hope you were kidding – You have to have goals and Doug’s list is fantastic! Never seen any school board candidate or current school board member put out a list of ideas and goals like Doug’s. I am going to share with my friend who is running for school board in Indy!
Take a chance All life is a chance. The man who goes furthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.
– Dale Carnegie
Opps it was a collaborative effort – still impressive – Go KC I win the pool if they win!
Doug Masson says
Definitely collaborative. And it’s aspirational. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work toward it. However, one of the issues I think school systems have is that teachers get burned out because you get these aspirations every few years, then they die out, then someone heads off in another direction. So, the veterans can get understandably jaded. When that happens, the school just drifts.
I’ve done 3 of these with school boards and 1 with a state agency. 90% of the stuff ends up on a shelf collecting dust.
Honestly, the Statement of Beliefs and Mission Statement are practically identical in content to the 3 strategic plans I have been part of. The wordsmithing is unique but the sentiments are universal.
Bummer! Hmmm my sister worked as the IT director at the Butler Tech, in Butler County just North of Hamilton County in the Cincy area. She would sit in meetings and the younger kids who would come up these great ideas and she would say we tried that and it didn’t work, they hated her!
My brother a retired lawyer said the same thing when the youngster would say we have this new and amazing plan.He would look down and shake his head and think we have been there before it didn’t work.
Down here in Indy our Superintendent has signed contracts way down in New Albany (where he came from) and one of the contracts was servicing our internet and the intranet. The company then contracts out to make the Facebook and theater videos to a company in Louisville,
Two cameramen were driving up from Louisville every time they shot a video.Not to mention there are over 60 video and IT companies in Indy, so why is our tax money going to Southern Indiana and Kentucky? Emailed every school board and stated that it wasn’t illegal but it probably violated his ethics clause in his contract. Not one school board member emailed me back. In fact the new school member who had not been sworn in yet was actually threatened by two administration personal wanting to know who I was. He caved and on a Monday one day before the school board meeting I get served by a cop saying I am not allowed on the grounds. I wanted to sue but my wife did not want me to.
So now he got rid of a popular basketball coach and hired the Warren coach who won a championship. The guy was a high school teacher and gets a brand new job in administration as a dean of attendance and gets a 30 grand raise. Plenty of qualified people in the administration should have got this job. They also hire his wife as a second grade teacher and she gets a raise.
How did he win his title at Warren, coaches recruit players from AAU teams and promise the parents that their kids will get basketball college scholarships if they move in the district and they do. One coach up north west has a bunch of rentals that the kids family can move in to the district at a discounted rate. This happens all the time in Indy, another example is how does Brebeuf get all black players on their basketball team when it is in the top three most expensive schools in the state. We spent 6 grand on wireless headphones for the football team and one hundred dollars for the theater department. Not one school board member calls him out. The guy is sports obsessed and they hired a new football and volleyball coach. The old regime would promote assistants for head coaching spots.
Talked to a teacher and he said he went to a couple of school meeting and (I have to) and the board was compliant to the administration. The sports attendance in our high school is anemic and if you add in the coaches salary they are all in the red.
I am sure you have been there paddy! Hey as a school board member you need to know where the money is and where it is going, hope you have good administration personal that have the same vision as the board. If things start going off the rails you need to know your bi-laws. Sadly our board knows almost nothing about the above. Very sad!
Out of all of this stuff, I think it was this sentence that made me the saddest.
You mention needing good finance people — I'm not sure it's high praise, necessarily, but the guy who is training to take over in the finance department was a long time reader of this blog before I ever moved into the school district.
I still think you have to have a comprehensive plan and try to accomplish as many as your goals as possible or what the use of running for school board. If you can get your state reps, senators and other local politicians or board to push the schools and the communities agenda that may help. Even try to get the Superintendent or someone in the administration to partner with other school district to lobby politicians to push a county plan. Always better to have a county plan then to go it alone..
meant to say — state or county plan
https://inview.doe.in.gov/ here’s the link I had a hard time finding. lots of demographic information. Hmm your High Schools number of students has stayed steady since 2018. Type Lafayette in the second box (Find schools near you) and it will give you the ability to look at the information for all the schools in the Lafayette.
https://www.doe.in.gov/accountability/find-school-and-corporation-data-reports you might already have this one