There's a new roadmap in place for the Douglas County School District's next five years, and it's the first time a plan of its kind has been in place since 2017.
School board President David Ray called the debut of a new strategic plan titled “Growing Together” a historic moment for the district. The district spent several months creating it, gathering input from community stakeholders, district employees, students and families.
More than 30,000 people completed a survey created to inform the plan's development.
“We could not be in a better position than today to learn and grow together for the sake of our students, our schools and our community,” Ray said. “Don't just receive this plan. Own it. Nurture it. Champion it.”
The school district unveiled the strategic plan at an event to which all 8,300 district employees were invited. More than 6,000 RSVP'd.
The district hosted its launch at the Pepsi Center in Denver, busing more than 2,700 employees from Douglas County while thousands more drove. The facility cost $9,200 to rent but was covered by donations from the community, according to a district news release.
The full document is not yet available, but Superintendent Thomas Tucker along with the board of education gave staff an overview of its focus points at the Sept. 20 rollout. The plan breaks down into six key areas. Here's a look at each theme in the plan.
Health, safety and social-emotional support for students
This includes enhancing the physical and psychological safety and security in schools, according to a brief of the strategic plan.
“Our students are our greatest assets,” Tucker said. “Students need to learn in environments that are physically and emotionally safe.”
Tucker said the district's personalized learning officer, Nancy Ingalls, is helping to lead a national effort to improve social and emotional learning. He gave other examples of how the district is supporting students in this area. At ThunderRidge High School, he said, students founded a mental health program called Oasis.
The program raises funds for district mental health resources by selling merchandise.
Post-graduation guidance and preparation
The second theme of DCSD's strategic plan involves increasing awareness of post-graduation pathways. Whether that be obtaining professional certifications, attending a two-year college, four-year university or joining the military, Tucker said the district will work harder to help students understand various opportunities.
The district is also looking to heighten access to college credit courses and to technical education in high school and middle school.
“As a district, it is our job to prepare our students for post-graduation success,” Tucker said. “We have an obligation to ensure that each student is provided opportunities to learn about these options and understand the path to pursuing them from any age, and very early on.”
Positive and supportive culture
Tucker stressed that good school environments — ones where staff and educators feel supported — in turn improve the learning of students. This part to the plan will create systems that “regularly celebrate individuals and teams in the district,” the brief reads, while making sure district employees understand their role in DCSD and how their work affects the district as a whole.
“(Students) must be empowered and supported by a community of professionals that believe learning is the key to unlocking limitless potential,” Tucker said.
Aligning curriculum with flexible instructional delivery
The district is looking to align its curriculum with Colorado Academic Standards, Tucker said, from pre-kindergarten to the 12th grade. This will include district-wide instructional frameworks. The goal is to create cohesive curriculum while still giving educators choice in the content and resources used in the classroom.
“It's OK to use the Colorado Academic Standards,” Tucker said. “So that every child is preparing for their chosen future.”
Equitable distribution of resources
This goal was the most detailed within the broader strategic plan overview. It involves reviewing guidelines for additional pay and using school boundaries and enrollment analysis to inform the distribution of resources.
Tucker thanked district staff for their help in passing the district's bond and mill levy override in 2018. The funds helped with capital improvements for district schools and in hiring dozens more counselors throughout the district, in two examples.
“Our schools represent our community and we must provide every school, not one school nor 40 schools, but every school, with ample resources,” Tucker said.
Recruitment, retention and development of high-quality employees
The final focus area of the strategic plan revolves around attracting and keeping talented staff in the district.
The first phase in this area will be developing “a predictable compensation schedule for all employee groups that acknowledges experience/longevity, knowledge and performance,” the brief says, and one that is competitive among neighboring districts.
“We are committed to keeping you, and I've asked again — as I've said over the past year — that we work collaboratively and I ask for your patience,” Tucker said to the room filled with thousands of district employees. “We'll get there because I know next to parents are teachers, administrators and support staff who have the biggest impact on student success.”
The plan will be implemented in three phases through 2025. Chief Academic Officer Marlena Gross-Taylor said cabinet members will visit individual schools in the coming year to discuss in more detail how the plan will be implemented and to continue gathering feedback from the community.
Ray urged district employees to continue providing feedback on the plan, calling it a living document.
“As I feel the smallness of standing on this stage,” Ray said, “I am reminded of the incredible power that occurs when we stop being a system of schools and instead unite as a school system.”
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