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District 153 has a long-range plan for the next five years

The board of education for Homewood District 153 officially accepted a five-year strategic plan at its March 12 meeting.
Superintendent Dale Mitchell offered his thanks and congratulations to the board members, district staff and community volunteers who worked on the outline and spelled out initiatives to be carried out through 2023. More than 50 people were involved in developing the plan.

“I’m so excited about our future, but I’m also extremely pleased about our past and the experiences we’ve shared together for many, many years,” said Mitchell, who has been superintendent since 2004.

“Our reputation in Homewood is strong schools because the staff and board work together and give a positive experience for kids,” he said.
The strategic plan keeps to the district’s mission: “All children will learn, all children will be served.”  

“Even though it was adopted in the mid-1980s, it’s still relevant today in 2018. We continue to believe in that,” the superintendent said as he reviewed the highlights of the plan. “All means all: all 2,053 students we serve today. All deserve an opportunity … to learn, to be served, to grow to be ready for (high school) when they reach that pinnacle.”

The strategic plan focuses on six specific areas: 
  • Finance.
  • Human resources.
  • Social/emotional well-being.
  • Curriculum/assessment/outcomes.
  • Community/public relations. 
  • Facilities.
Mitchell said the biggest hurdle has been finances that are directly impacted by reduced funding from the state, which was $5.7 million in 2008 but only $5.3 million this year. The district is still waiting for state payments for special education and other reimbursements. The state also hasn’t shared what new monies the district will get under the 2017 school finance reform measure.
A drop in state funding was coupled with the drop in the equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of property during the last recession, which resulted in reduced tax revenues. He recognized the outstanding support the community gave by approving referendums in 2011 and 2016 with 80 percent support.
One long-term goal is attempting to eliminate the structural deficit. Mitchell said the board has stabilized spending through a five-year teachers contract and soliciting outside funding, and it will continue to look at ways to reduce costs.
Despite the shortfalls, the district has managed to meet high standards. In District 153 “we more than maintain. We’ve done amazing things with the resources we’ve been given,” the superintendent stressed as he went through a litany of projects, including the recent additions of STEM labs at James Hart and Churchill Schools, and a new music lab at Hart; new testing strategies; additional resources for student interventions; and the 70 co-curricular activities for children in every grade.
In the next five years, the district will be seeing a major turnover through staff retirements. Mitchell said the district has a strong mentoring program that is helping new teachers learn the culture of District 153. He believes new hires will be a diverse group with strong credentials.
Teachers are also working to reinforce positive messages with District 153 values of “how we treat each other and talk to each other,” he added.
The district will be making an effort to share news with the community through a redesigned website and short videos. It soon will have a new logo.
Consultant Bob Madonia, who facilitated the long range planning sessions, applauded the plan and those who spent September through February working on it.
“I deal with a number of school districts in the Chicago suburban area. I have to compliment the board, staff and community on how well this plan turned out. It’s one of the best I’ve seen,” Madonia said.

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