Guiding 10,000 students, 1,000 employees and 39 schools would be impossible without a sense of direction.
The school board and senior administrators met Tuesday to set the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District's goals for the 2000-01 school year. The annual special meeting focuses attention on priority concerns and projects.
"We all want the same things for our children," said Superintendent Donna Peterson. "It is prioritizing that is the discussion."
The school officials agreed on a six-point agenda. Plans are to:
n Update the district's strategic plan.
The strategic plan guides the district staff in long-range planning. It was last updated in 1994.
The district will change the process of soliciting feedback on the plan this go-round, Peterson said. The public and staff will have opportunities to comment, with the Internet providing a new forum for efficient community discussion, she said.
Among the items to be addressed in the new strategic plan are long-term facility needs, with particular attention for Voznesenka's need for a school house, Nikiski's reconfiguration, Soldotna Middle School's crowding and Seward's aging facilities, which are in need of replacement.
n Continue to develop the district's certified diploma while providing learning challenges for students at all levels of achievement.
The district is working on its own version of a certified diploma to dovetail with state efforts to set standards for high school graduates. District plans include reports on standardized test scores and review of policies for graduation requirements.
Hand in hand with the testing are projects to promote literacy and extra help for students who lag behind goals.
At the same time, the district faces the challenge of serving the educational needs of diverse students. That includes accelerated programs for some, remedial programs for others, assisting transfer students and delivering education to small, remote schools. Teaching, technology and scheduling are tools for meeting the needs, Peterson said.
n Improve communication.
This is a perennial project, the superintendent said.
Last year, improved public relations was one board goal.
"It's the same idea but a little different slant," she said.
The board is interested in featuring accomplishments by teachers and students.
"We need to celebrate our successes, advocate for children and make the public more aware," said board member Sammy Crawford.
Other suggestions are: visiting schools more often; applying for awards; reaching out to the community via written articles and talks to service clubs; and utilizing informal work sessions between the school board and staff groups.
n Use the "Assets" framework for students.
Assets are key building blocks, tangible and intangible, in children's lives that help them grow into thriving adults. Educational studies have compiled lists of practical ways schools can help students overcome adversity and achieve success.
The district plans to train principals about the "Assets" approach and to foster regional training for site councils, families and other community members.
n Use technology to increase opportunities.
The board directed the administration to continue pursuing technology, especially computers and Internet, to improve learning opportunities, provide students with more course options and streamline operations.
"We want to use technology in every way we can to improve the district," Crawford said. "It really is a continuation."
n Develop a long-term plan for student activities.
The district will set up a task force to consider how to govern and fund such programs as sports, music and academic after-school activities.
The future of such programs is a major challenge facing the district in the climate of downsizing and tight budgets, Crawford said.
"There are a lot of options out there we are eager to explore," she said.
Peterson, two assistant superintendents and six members of the school board spent most of the day in the Skyview High School library south of Soldotna reviewing the past year's accomplishments and scrutinizing areas of future concern. This year's session was completed in record time.
Crawford said that everyone walked into the meeting well prepared. It was her third goal-setting session and the smoothest, despite hard times for the district.
"It's always an exciting process," she said. "It's always a challenge to lead a district this size in a time of budget cuts. But we have to learn to do more with less."
Peterson praised the smooth working relationship between the board and administration. The meeting focused on children and learning on all levels and was not politicized at all, she said, noting that recent meetings have been particularly brief and productive.
"We just went after it," she said.
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