Education, Local News

District 153 sets 12 initiatives for updated strategic plan

The Homewood District 153 school board adopted new goals at the June 12 meeting that will place a focus on 12 initiatives over the next five years.

The strategic planning sessions May 3 and 4 were led consultant Robert Madonia in conjunction with the school board members who interacted with nearly 60 parents and community members to design the goals for 2023 to 2028, according to Superintendent Scott McAlister. 

Madonia helped the district with its previous strategic planning initiative for 2018 to 2023. Shelly Marks, president of the school board, felt the district accomplished a lot over the past five years, especially considering what the district had to deal with due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In some ways I feel like it accelerated some of what we were able to accomplish,” she said. One of the district’s long range goals was bringing technology into the classroom and offering one-to-one options for students. “With COVID we were able to do that because the funds were available. Not having the funds was no longer an impediment. I’m really pleased with what we accomplished.”

The 2023-2028 goals are divided under six categories: finance, facilities, curriculum/instruction/assessment, student needs, human resources and community/public relations. 

Goals included prioritizing and addressing the needs of aging facilities, a critical need as schools have become crowded. Willow and Churchill Schools are using mobile classrooms. The district’s schools are also more than 50 years old and require continued maintenance. 

Marks said during the strategic planning meetings staff, community members and parents all pointed out the buildings’ limitations. The board is aware of the needs and it has several ideas on how to move forward with improvements.

“We collectively share the concern that we need more space and how it works for kids,” she said.

The board also will work toward a fiscal model that provides sufficient fund balances. Homeowners have approved referenda, the latest in November 2022, to help keep the district on a sound financial footing. Now the school board’s work is to keep the finances on an even keel and be able to provide for adequate compensation and benefits for staff.

McAlister said parents “understand the importance of having skilled and compassionate staff and the recognize the need to compensate staff accordingly based on current market wages.”

The goals also include implementing research-based instructional strategies that keep students engaged in learning. Also, giving students access to a rich and representative curriculum. 

Schools are dealing with a number of student needs. District 153 will work to give students an inclusive, safe environment that enables student growth.

The district plans to continue recruitment and retention of a staff that is reflective of the community. The plan also aims to increase family involvement in school activities and develop ways to make district information accessible to parents and the community.

“Generally speaking, parents are looking for ways to promote consistent communication between school and household so that they can be informed and help participate in the process of educating their children,” McAlister added.

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