There’s a somewhat famous quote by the late Richard Cardinal Cushing, in which he addressed the importance of always having a plan. “Always plan ahead,” the quote goes. “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
To me, this simple statement illustrates the type of strategic planning underway in the Wilton Public Schools. While Wilton’s administrators have long recognized the need for an overall vision and a comprehensive plan for moving our district forward, the need has taken on an even greater importance today, as we anticipate the opportunities and challenges of the next few years.
I thought it would be worthwhile to review the district vision and objectives that Superintendent [Kevin] Smith, the administrative team, our faculty and the Board of Education have developed and embraced. These are the tenets that guide our planning, our priorities and our budget allocations, and will serve as the cornerstone for the five-year plan Superintendent Smith is in the final stages of developing.
First, our vision, and I hope this is not the first time you are seeing this statement:
“All Wilton graduates will be innovators, collaborators and creative and critical thinkers who are high achieving, socially responsible, civic-minded and have internalized the virtues of compassion and empathy.
“Our instructional program will meet the demands of a globally interconnected society by providing a rigorous and comprehensive, holistic educational experience.
As a result, Wilton Public Schools will be recognized as a premier, dynamic, learner-focused district that leads the nation in educational excellence.”
Now how to get there? Seven distinct strategic objectives provide the bedrock principles that will keep us focused as we move forward. Three of these objectives are instructional-focused, and the remainder focus on ensuring operations are aligned to support our strategy.
Our instructional-focused objectives:
- Build the capacity of teachers to create trusting, respectful, and supportive relationships with students and families.
- Build the capacity of teachers to use the principles of Universal Design for Learning* (UDL) to develop curricula and instructional frameworks.
- Build the capacity of teachers to design and implement high quality performance assessments.
Our operations-focused objectives:
- Lead and manage the processes to recruit, hire, develop and support teachers who demonstrate the capacity to personalize teaching and learning.
- Develop and manage annual budgets that provide the resources necessary to support and grow personalized teaching and learning practices.
- Develop and manage the technology equipment, infrastructure and technical support to create a digital learning environment that supports personalized learning and teaching.
- Lead and manage the ancillary student services needed to support personalized teaching and learning.
*Universal Design for Learning is the process through which personalized learning is delivered to each student. Our administrators and instructional leaders have been immersing themselves in this innovative approach to learning, which is gradually being introduced throughout the Wilton Public Schools.
If you look at some of the changes that have taken place throughout our schools, you can see the alignment with our strategic vision. Some of these changes include:
- Introduction of MAP testing as a way to identify the strengths of each student, and any areas that may need additional support.
- Rollout of multiple courses to allow Wilton students to keep pace with current best practices in education:
- STEM courses at Middlebrook and WHS
- Farm-to-Table culinary courses at Middlebrook and WHS
- Return of 3rd grade world language
- Computer coding course at WHS
- Adoption of Readers and Writers workshop to allow more personalized focus on reading skills
- Addition of math interventionists in each school to address demonstrated need for student support.
- Implementation of a freshman transition program at WHS
- Repurposing of our traditional school libraries into innovative, technology-based “Library Learning Commons.”
In the coming weeks, you will hear more about this, as Superintendent Smith shares details of his proposed 5-year plan for the Wilton Public Schools. Also, as we begin the budget process for the 2017-18 school year, the plan will be the basis for all spending decisions.
So with our strategic vision and objectives, we are focused on forward growth. One thing I have learned in my years on the Board is that very little stays the same in education. The process of delivering education is constantly evolving, and a district that doesn’t welcome innovation runs the risk of complacency.
And in tribute to the late Cardinal Cushing, let’s not wait for the rain to build the ark.
“Notes from the Board Table” is the regular feature contributed by Bruce Likly, chairman of the Wilton Board of Education.