By Ric Dressen
Edina Public Schools is proud of its tradition of defining excellence. Yet what many people do not realize is that this tradition does not happen by chance. We are fortunate to have an effective recipe of success that has worked well for us in the past and that we are employing again as we plan for the future. This recipe includes maintaining a strong focus on quality instruction to support successful learning, exploring new educational initiatives to enhance learning for all students, and completing strategic studies to advance learning in the future. This process has been part of our district’s strategic planning efforts for years and is critical to our ongoing success and continued commitment to our educational mission.
Our mission statement is the foundation for all we do in our district. It recognizes the importance of partnerships in our commitment to the success for all learners so that they can thrive in the world that lies ahead of them. Recently, we have paraphrased the 47-word mission statement to three words – All for All. Our district’s educational charge is for ALL of the District – staff, parents, students, community members – to work together for the success of ALL learners. Our success recipe is key to ensuring that All for All is truly a reality in Edina Public Schools.
With respect to the first two ingredients in our recipe for success, we know that our district has an outstanding team of teachers, administrators and support staff that work in partnership with students and families to advance the learning of all students. We are also enriching our educational programs and services by implementing new approaches to learning through instructional technology and staff training. To ensure that we can continue to provide quality instruction at all levels, we know that we must provide ongoing trainings and learning opportunities for our students, families and staff that are focused on the latest best practice research and proven instructional strategies and that are aligned to the needs of our current and future learners.
With regard to the third key ingredient in our recipe for success, Edina Public Schools is in the midst of three major strategic studies – secondary academic programming, closing the learning and opportunity gap, and facilities. Each of these studies is led by district administrators with a charge to develop recommendations to be presented to the School Board for considered action. The study processes blend input and insights from staff, students, parents and community with research findings and best practice strategies. The data collected is then synthesized into recommendations, from which an implementation plan is developed that allows for a strategic phasing in of the recommendations over the next three years. (To read more about the strategic studies, visit the district website at www.edina.k12.mn.us)
• Secondary Academic Programming Study – This study is focused on reviewing and planning for the next generation of curriculum and educational programs and services for our future grade 6-12 students. The study, which has been underway since last fall, has already received two rounds of input and insights from staff, students and parents, and has reviewed over 20 research projects from across the country and around the world. At this point in the process, the study team has identified 22 considerations, which will be refined through further input and research to create recommendations. These recommendations will be presented to the School Board in March 2013.
• Closing the Learning & Opportunity Gap – Edina Public Schools continues to create remarkable success stories for our students. Still, Edina does have “learning gaps” among our student groups. As our mission states, we need to be focused on All for All. Therefore, we need to improve our programming and services to ensure that every student is successful. We are making progress in this area and have implemented some short-term strategies to address our immediate needs, but our strategic study in this area will identify specific recommendations to provide long-term support for the students that we are underserving. Like many Minnesota school districts, we know that we have significant achievement and opportunity gaps with some of our students that is based on socio-economics and race. Again, we are gathering input from stakeholders and researching successful strategies as we develop recommendations that will foster successful learning experiences for all students. These recommendations will be presented to the school board in February 2013.
• Facilities – The district has formed a facilities task force, comprised of staff, parents and community experts that will help in shaping and prioritizing options for our schools and outdoor fields. Its focus is to consider remodeling and construction options to make sure our aging facilities continue to align with the needs of our evolving educational programs. It will also look into what facility improvements can be made to address school safety and security concerns, especially in light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut. The task force’s report will come before the School Board in the summer of 2013.
As superintendent, one of my major responsibilities with our strategic plan is to ensure these strategic studies remain aligned to our mission and to pace the approved recommendations for successful implementation given our available resources of time, staff, finances and facilities. I also need to make sure that all stakeholders are kept informed as our mission-driven recipe unfolds.
I look forward to sharing more information with you in the future on the progress of our strategic studies and of opportunities for you to share your thoughts and insights along the way. With your partnership, I am confident that we will build the Next Generation of Edina Public Schools that is true to its mission of All for All.