We are presently living in remarkable times. The first three months of school have been uniquely successful largely due to the very positive opening of school in August, followed by significant changes in school climate and culture in many of our schools.
These changes are the result of a host of strategies including: changes in leadership, intensive and on-going professional development aimed at improving the quality of classroom instruction, close monitoring of what is taught and assessed across classrooms, increased accountability regarding non-negotiable goals for achievement and instruction, and an emphasis on relationships. One of the most significant strategies for improving student achievement occurs when students know that teachers, parents, and other students actually care about how well they do. All of these efforts are having an impact on the overall quality of the learning environments in our schools.
So what’s next? To achieve the extraordinary results, we must continue moving forward and refocus on the future. For Danville Public Schools and its governance team, the School Board, a next step may mean engaging in strategic planning.
In February of 2017, the School Board and City Council held a joint retreat to consider a future vision of public education in the City of Danville. On September 11, 2017, the Board and Council reconvened in a joint meeting to revisit the key takeaways of the retreat and discuss next steps. Following that meeting, the School Board is preparing to engage in a strategic planning process. As the Board prepares to engage in strategic planning, it may be helpful for citizens of Danville to be truly informed of the characteristics of an effective school board as defined by the Center for Public Education – Eight Characteristics of Effective School Boards
- Effective school boards commit to a vision of high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction and define clear goals toward that vision.
- Effective school boards have strong shared beliefs and values about what is possible for students and their ability to learn, and of the system and its ability to teach all children at high levels.
- Effective school boards are accountability driven, spending less time on operational issues and more time focused on policies to improve student achievement.
- Effective school boards have a collaborative relationship with staff and the community and establish a strong communications structure to inform and engage both internal and external stakeholders in setting and achieving district goals.
- Effective school boards are data savvy: they embrace and monitor data, even when the information is negative, and use it to drive continuous improvement.
- Effective school boards align and sustain resources, such as professional development, to meet district goals. According to researchers LaRocque and Coleman, effective boards saw a responsibility to maintain high standards even in the midst of budget challenges.
- Effective school boards lead as a united team with the superintendent, each from their respective roles, with strong collaboration and mutual trust.
- Effective school boards take part in team development and training, sometimes with their superintendents, to build shared knowledge, values and commitments for their improvement efforts.
In districts with higher levels of student achievement, the local board of education is aligned with and supportive of the non-negotiable goals for achievement and instruction. The board ensures that these goals remain top priorities in the district and that no other initiatives detract attention for resources from accomplishing these goals. The engagement in strategic planning is the next step in the journey toward extraordinary performance for our schools.