New Strategic Plan a Community Effort

The members of the board of education for Niles School District 71 gave their unanimous and wholehearted approval for the district’s new strategic plan at the Sept. 19 board meeting.

“Our strategic plan is a comprehensive document that represents the district’s mission, objectives, strategies, values and beliefs. It will serve as a guide for all decisions made in Niles 71 — a road map for where we want to be in the future,” said board president Matt Holbrook.

“This new, three-year plan is the culmination of a process that began during the 2016-2017 school year. Driven by the strong leadership of our board, it is a direct result of feedback from a large group of stakeholders, including students, parents, faculty, staff and members of the community at large,” said District 71 Supt. John Kosirog.

The process began in April 2017 when the educational consulting firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA) began conducting focus groups, individual interviews and an online survey. Respondents were asked their opinions about the strengths, values, growth areas and future direction of District 71 to determine priorities for the next three to five years.

In addition to district students, parents and staff, participants included local business leaders, government representatives, high school administrators and other community leaders. According to HYA, “The high level of survey responses, along with the participation in the interviews and the focus groups, are strong indicators of the support that the community, parents and staff demonstrate for the school district.”

A major theme that emerged from every group is that Culver School is a special place, characterized by a strong feeling of caring for children and a sense of community.

The new strategic plan specifies three goals, along with a number of objectives and action steps to accompany each of them:

  1. Improve student performance to prepare students for high school
  2. Develop and communicate Culver School identity and accomplishments
  3. Maintain a strong financial position and safe and productive building facilities

Goals 1 and 3 are fairly straightforward ambitions that might be found in most school strategic plans. Goal 2 is more aspirational.

“Culver is recognized as an exceptional neighborhood school where students receive personal attention and support,” Holbrook said. “We want to build on this foundation, communicate our accomplishments, and firmly establish our reputation for excellence. The strategic plan represents a commitment by the entire community to help our children succeed in school and life.”

“We believe in the whole child and the need to focus on both the academic needs and the social-emotional needs of our students,” Kosirog added. “Our goal is to leverage the already exceptional strengths of our district so students are successful in high school and beyond. There was a shared belief among all stakeholders that we should focus on technology and other learning experiences our students will need to succeed in mid-21st century careers.”

The strategic plan also provides a set of guiding principles, based on the belief that education is the shared responsibility of students, families, the school and the community. District 71 commits to providing each student with opportunities to reach his or her full potential by:

  • Fostering a safe and nurturing learning environment.
  • Offering challenging programs that meet diverse physical, intellectual, social and emotional needs.
  • Inspiring students to become self-directed learners in an ever-changing technological and multicultural world.
  • Utilizing the fine arts to promote student expression and creativity.
  • Respecting one another and sharing accountability for achieving the goals of the school district.