In October 2017, the District embarked on a comprehensive strategic planning process. The goal was to provide a framework and guide for the District over the next three to five years.
This framework allows progress to be measured, priorities established, resources allocated and communications improved among all stakeholders. In short, the plan articulates goals and action plans to improve performance in all areas and to increase efficiencies. These areas include curriculum, instruction, operations, finances, facilities and communications.
A key component of the process was to involve stakeholders through focus groups, interviews and surveys. The District partnered with an independent contractor in order to gather the feedback. In all, 186 stakeholders (teachers, parents, staff, community members, Board of Education) participated in focus groups and interviews and another 348 responded to online surveys.
A number of common themes on the strengths and challenges of Butler District 53 emerged from this community engagement process.
What the community identified as strengths
Butler School District 53 is a premier school district that has a history of excellence. It is consistently recognized for high performance in every area, from test scores and student achievement to teaching strategies, curriculum, technology, professional development and preparing students for high school. Additionally, Butler 53 is known for its high standards in operations and finances and its low tax rate. Teachers personalize learning to meet the needs of students and there is academic support available for every student. The schools each have a sense of community, and the care and concern for every child is abundantly evident from the custodians, to the secretaries and classroom assistants, to the teachers and administrators. Moreover, parents and community leaders actively support the school. Participants also noted that communication with parents is generally strong and technology is accessible to all students. Even with all of these achievements, the schools and staff maintain high expectations and continue to find ways to improve the instructional program and hold themselves to high standards for their own growth as educators.
What the community identified as challenges
Participants addressed some challenges for the District: Continuously communicate with stakeholders, especially those who don’t have children in the school as well as provide ongoing information about the curriculum and academic expectations to parents. Other areas for growth are to continue the District’s efforts to meet the needs of the whole child and grow the social emotional program so that students continue to have a well-rounded experience. Participants suggested broadening current programs and implementing others so students have a more expansive choice in courses. Related to that was continuing to grow partnerships with other organizations in order to provide more class choice for students. Participants also noted a challenge to expand transition planning for students going to high school. Keeping class size small, continuing professional development for technology and new instructional practices, and continuing to fine-tune and strengthen the language arts curriculum were also identified as important next steps.
Detailed action plans for 2018-19
In March, the Board approved detailed action plans beginning in 2018-19. The action plan highlights detailed workable steps and identifies measures of progress and metrics of success. Here are examples of some of the critical work outlined in the plan:
Strengthen teaching and learning by identifying enhancements for the K-8 STEM curriculum, developing a framework for social-emotional learning, reviewing community data in order to update expectations and readiness of a District 53 graduate, conducting an audit of extracurricular opportunities and exploratories in order to provide students with more choices, increased learning and improved student engagement.
Some items in the plan are to develop a clear process for conflict resolution, develop a guide for the District’s accelerated placement and gifted and talented programs, develop a communications survey and develop an updated communications plan that includes an expanded website presence and additional video usage. Also planned is to create a community stakeholder group of non-parents, senior citizens and businesses.
This area addresses improving fiscally sound practices by completing an analysis of comparable districts, researching a cost-savings consortia, strengthening staff and leader satisfaction, investing in professional growth to continue to grow teacher excellence and identifying a Professional Learning Management system.
These are only a few of the action steps outlined under the three goals. The Strategic Plan and the 2018-19 Action Plan are both living documents and are referred to regularly to set priorities and make decisions. Read more about the Strategic Plan in the links below.