Intermediate District 287 is in the home stretch of its five-year strategic plan. And as it enters the final year of the program, the district took some time to acknowledge the positives of year four and the challenges the future holds.
The preface to the Year Four Strategic Plan Progress Report, published in February, reads; “by the time there is a fourth annual anything, there is both an expected pattern and anticipation that it’s time to break that pattern. It’s time to break the pattern.”
Dr. Jane Holmberg, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning in District 287, said that part of “breaking the pattern” means that the intermediate district will shift its approach in serving its member districts, which are Brooklyn Center, Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Orono, Osseo, Richfield, Robbinsdale, St. Louis Park, Wayzata and Westonka.
“What’s unique about this plan is what some of the big ideas were; even though we’re a school district, and are certainly about serving students and achievement, the plan really solidifies our role as a provider of service to the districts and helping them meet their students’ needs,” Holmberg said.
Holmberg noted that this goal won’t involve degradation of service to students, but rather will increase communication and collaboration with the very specific needs of each member school district.
The goal is of such importance to District 287 that it rewrote its mission statement to read; “[our mission] is to be the premier provider of innovative specialized services to ensure that each member district can meet the unique learning needs of its students.”
Holmberg said District 287’s approach will become more focused and custom-tailored to exactly what its customers need.
One example of a step taken to achieve this was launching customized web portals in December. The portals provide up-to-date information related to decision making, such as how the member districts are working together, current student information and services.
An aspect of the portal is the new Expense Estimator, which functions akin to a mortgage calculator, Holmberg said.
With the estimator feature, member districts can calculate an end-of-the-year bill based on student enrollment and usage of District 287’s services.
“This is kind of a breakthrough, particularly in special education,” Holmberg said. “It really helps [districts] estimate their costs, which was a primary concern of theirs. It was hard for them to budget [for District 287’s services] in the past.”
Another new aspect outlined by the Year Four Report is the Innovation Report Card, first published last August.
The Report Card used indicators of innovation from the private sector to show how 287 functions in five areas relating to change in educational methods: commitment to innovation, innovation output and collaboration, culture of change, market success and innovation diffusion. The Report Card can be viewed at district287.org.
Additional feedback was gathered at a meeting of all member district Superintendents, Holmberg said, and the results were quite positive.
“The biggest feedback is a measure of the plan, which is the when superintendents annually respond to whether or not we’re vital for them to meet their most challenging educational problems,” she said. “And 100 percent declared that we are indeed vital.”
Holmberg continued to say that District 287 hopes to act as a facilitator of innovation for member districts in year five. She said that, rather than focusing on one or two important areas to work on, the goal is to cultivate an entire system that generates innovative ideas across the board.
For instance, District 287 facilitated work between 14 area districts to begin forming digital curriculum. A sixth grade Minnesota Studies learning resource was built on the Moodle platform, which is a free and open source interface that allows districts to collaborate digitally on textbook-replacing information sources.
The Year Four Report also pointed out where District 287 can improve in providing education for some of the most challenging learners from member districts.
While many ideas about what sort of service District 287 should deliver exist, the report shows that the district needs to further implement those ideas both internally and throughout the member districts.
“We had generated a lot of solutions, but we hadn’t diffused them totally within the organization or beyond the organization,” Holmberg said. “There are things that may be in two sites that are time saving and showing student gains, but are not at all the other sites. It’s more making sure that, once we have generated the work, we are making it more uniform across the system.”
The Year Four Report concludes in noting that, while the internal survey suggests District 287 is “clearly performing well,” areas exist where service can be enhanced and the district will take steps to improve those areas where indicated.
“What makes us vital is that we always strive to really address districts’ most challenging needs,” Holmberg said. “And the more customized we can provide service, the better.”
Contact Brian Rosemeyer at firstname.lastname@example.org