EAST GREENWICH – There is still a lot of work to do, but Superintendent Alexis Meyer is confident the community can be proud of the strategic planning currently underway.
The strategic planning work – which will clearly define a theory of action, mission and vision for the district in the future – began several months ago in December, with the help and direction of the vice president from the school committee, Lori McEwen.
To date, four meetings have already taken place, according to Meyer, and another is scheduled for May. The district will still be seeking community input, and what’s currently on the table is still in draft form, but Meyer said plans are moving in the right direction.
“This latest meeting and project coming together is starting to feel like we can see this work come to fruition,” Meyer said. “Frankly, it’s exciting, and I think it will have deep meaning for the kids in this community.”
The design team, which includes Superintendent Meyer, Assistant Superintendent Michael Podroza, School Committee Chair Anne Musella and Vice President McEwen, worked alongside the Steering Committee on this effort – which includes School Committee Member Tim Munoz, two city council members, four district council members. and school administrators, 11 teachers, 17 parents and three students.
“All of the work done as part of the design team and the steering committee flows down to the synthesis team,” Meyer explained. “Who takes all of this information and tries to develop a strategic plan working document.”
During the April meeting, breakout sessions allowed stakeholders to really dig into what has been highlighted in the plans so far and provide feedback. Although the feedback that was given two weeks ago has yet to be incorporated into the strategic plan, Meyer said there were a lot of positives to take away.
“We really got a lot of positive feedback from the groups on our Theory of Action because what you see highlighted is really what came out clearly from the discussions we had in our strategic planning meetings,” he said. she declared.
“If we create a student-centred learning environment; whether we create welcoming and safe schools where students and staff are respected and expected to succeed; if we focus on the growth, success and belonging of each student; if we build the capacity of our leaders, our people and our systems; if our families and community engage in meaningful ways, then our school community will achieve equitable outcomes and our students will thrive.
Having high expectations, while being sure to redefine the district’s definition of success, will be extremely important going forward, according to Meyer. Supports that allow teaching and learning to be joyful and to celebrate all students were also highlighted as goals – which school committee member Alyson Powell saw as “a big consequence of the vision of a graduate work”.
Regarding a mission for schools in East Greenwich, Meyer particularly liked a comment that supported the facilitation of “an environment in which every student is genuinely known, celebrated and expected to achieve, and we embrace the promise, the potential and the uniqueness of each student”.
Some of the strategic goals discussed include ways to support teaching and learning, goals to have effective and innovative systems in play – including improving school facilities, which is now an expectation for all districts in the state – and goals to fully engage community members.
Although McEwen devoted much of her time and effort to this work, she commended Meyer and her team for doing the lion’s share of the job. Meyer’s overview of the work that has taken place thus far paints a picture of where the district has been, and where the district still needs to go.
“I think you’ve put your finger on how this is starting to take shape,” McEwen said. “We have always said that this is an ambitious schedule. We asked our strategic planning committee as one of our standards to trust the process, and it must have been a bit sluggish for a while.
“It’s coming back together,” she continued. “We got feedback from our last meeting from people who said ‘Thank you for that’ or ‘Thank you for sharing it this way.’ It’s flawed, it’s still in draft form, but we were able to answer them, and those answers led to more conversations and discussions.
Musella reiterated Meyer and McEwen’s comments that this plan is still “in draft form and does not reflect the last steering committee meeting.”
“A lot of what happened in the last steering committee meeting was a bunch of breakout sessions,” Musella said. “There is a real opportunity to go out in small groups and really dive.
The President also took a few moments to acknowledge the hard work of everyone working to move the District forward in this process – especially during these difficult times.
“This is one of those examples where we’re not just walking on water, we’re not just paddling as a district,” Musella said. “Our administrators are doing tremendous work to even move us forward, to where we were before the pandemic.”