On December 6th the school district convened an “advisory committee” meeting to begin to develop a vision for the future of Prairie Farm schools. With a mix of parents, community members, staff, board, and administration in attendance we discussed the following questions:
1. What do we want our schools to look like 5-10 years from now?
2. What are we currently doing that we should do more of?
3. What should we do as a district to ensure that we will remain a school of choice in the area and potentially increase our ability to draw students and families in?
4. What are the roles of all of the stake-holders in this process? (Students, Parents/ Community Members, Staff, Administration, Board)
After time for small group discussion, the groups were brought back together to share the information discussed with the large group. Many different ideas were presented with some common themes arising from these conversations. I have looked over the notes from the small group and large group discussions and have found that the items discussed fall into one of three basic groups: 1) Academics, 2) Communication, and 3) New Program Development. Following are the general ideas and/or topics that were discussed by category:1) Academics
- More opportunities for “college prep” and advanced placement (AP) courses
- Increase the amount of iTV offerings (classes available via a network of multiple schools)
- Increased development of technology skills and experiences
- More “co-op” opportunities for different classes (real world, on the job sort of experiences for credit)
- Provide service learning opportunities
- Allow volunteer hours for credit towards graduation
- Development of cross-curricular projects (having multiple classes covering similar topics concurrently that add to overall understanding and rigor)
- Enhancement of our virtual school program (this program is in its infancy for the 10-11 school year and will be expanded and marketed beginning with the 11-12 school year)
- Increase parent awareness of schedules and class offerings
- Increase parent awareness of post-graduation options for students
- Increase and enhance home-school communication
- Increase attendance at parent-teacher conferences (middle and high school)
3) New Program Possibilities
- Develop a day care program operated by the school for preK and younger district families to utilize
- Marketing of our district via radio advertising and potentially other forms
- Utilize Business Education class(es) to develop marketing strategies and programs for the school
- Early foreign language development for students in elementary grades (sometimes referred to as immersion classes)
As indicated by the above lists, there were plenty of great ideas that resulted from this meeting. Other topics were discussed ranging from additions to the school buildings to increased collaboration time for staff that are not listed above due to the fact that our district is limited by economic/financial constraints and class offering flexibility. With that being said, the next phase of this process is to determine the feasibility of doing any or all of the things listed above. Many of the ideas listed are occurring at some level but could be increased or added to, with little overall cost to the district; other topics listed would potentially take a substantial amount of time and money to institute. In addition, the development of a district vision statement or image should occur. Personally, I feel that the information presented above illustrates a vision of our schools as continually searching for opportunities to enhance our existing programs while remaining future oriented in the development of new programs and possibilities for students. Additionally, I feel there was a general consensus that a proactive marketing strategy is something we should think seriously about as a school and community. This may come in the form of simple radio advertising, various student developed marketing approaches, or even utilizing “facebook” or other web marketing/ informational tools.
The Next Step
The next step in our visioning process is two-fold. First, I feel that the community, students, staff, and board should all have input into developing a vision statement, image, or both, that is mutually agreed upon, simple and to the point, and easily recognizable. We have all seen many of these vision statements (or purpose statements) in popular media; one that sticks out in my mind is Toyota’s “keep moving forward” (we don’t have to be quite as clever as that with a dual meaning, etc., but you get the idea!). Second, we will hold a follow-up district advisory committee meeting in which a discussion of the items listed above attempts to determine which items listed we: a) definitely should do, b) possibly should do, c) should not do, or d) need more information. Additionally, I feel that the district should continually (perhaps every other year) generate these same types of lists and determine whether or not they are feasible.
I appreciate the time and energy put in by all of the individuals who attended the December 6th advisory committee meeting and look forward to seeing you again at the next one which is scheduled for Monday, January 31st at 7:00pm in the high school library.
Thank you for your input and support. Please feel free to contact me via phone, e-mail, or district blog, with your comments or suggestions at any time, particularly if you are unable to attend the next District Advisory Committee meeting on January 31st.
Craig G. Broeren
715-455-1683 ext. 119