Embracing diversity, meeting individual needs are among top objectives in Shawnee Mission strategic plan draft

Merriam Park Elementary students in 2018.

The steering committee working on a new strategic plan for the Shawnee Mission School District has drafted a set of beliefs and objectives that will serve as organizing principles for the group’s work moving forward. And embracing the district’s growing diversity and meeting the needs of each student as an individual are among the top themes.

Superintendent Michael Fulton said the process had included a lively debate about the issues. “There was no rubber stamping,” he said.

At the Board of Education meeting Monday, Superintendent Michael Fulton reported on one of the main outcomes from the steering committee’s two-and-a-half day kick off meeting earlier this month, the creation of a one-page document intended to clearly define the district’s values and how it will go about meeting its goals for students.

Bringing such a large group of people together in consensus on such broad ranging language was not without its challenges, Fulton and members of the board indicated. The 30-person steering committee spent hours debating not only the intent of each item but the very specific language that was used.

“Each one of these words was chosen very specifically,” said Laura Guy, one of two members of the board of education to serve on the committee. “Many of these words were debated for sometimes 20 minutes on one word to get it to say as precisely as we could what we wanted to say.”

Fulton said that the facilitator for the sessions had worked to fold in the perspectives of all of the committee members, who represented a range of viewpoints and backgrounds.

“There was no rubber stamping going on in the room, that’s for sure,” Fulton said.

With the guiding principles developed, the committee will now move toward the creation of “action teams,” sub-groups of about 30 people who will be tasked with coming up with detailed plans to meet the objectives laid out in the document, including how much specific steps would cost.

A closer look at the document

The document developed by the steering committee. Click to enlarge.

At the top of the chart is a list of guiding beliefs. They are:

  • Every individual has inherent worth and deserves to be valued and celebrated.
  • A community’s strength is derived from its diversity.
  • Respecting a community’s diversity and each individual’s dignity demands equitable access.
  • A thriving community meets the basic physical, social, and emotional needs of its members.
  • Safe and caring relationships are essential for learning and growth.
  • Acknowledged and appreciated individuals confidently engage and collaborate.
  • Individuals of all abilities and experiences can achieve personal excellence.
  • Ownership empowers each person to ignite their future.
  • Effective communication is truthful, genuine, reciprocal, and respectful

Following those beliefs is a mission statement for the district:

The mission of the Shawnee Mission School District, the bridge to unlimited possibilities yet to be discovered, is to ensure students construct their own foundation for success in life’s endeavors through relevant, personalized learning experiences orchestrated by talented, compassionate educators and distinguished by:

  • an inclusive culture
  • an engaged community
  • and robust opportunities that challenge learners to achieve their full potential.

Next come a set of three objectives:

  • Every student will achieve academic success through a challenging, rele- vant personalized learning plan
  • Every student will develop and utilize personal resilience while mastering essential competencies that lead to college and career readiness.
  • Every student will develop interpersonal skills to be an engaged, empathetic member of the local and global community.

And underneath those objectives come five strategies the district will employ to meet its goals for students:

  • We will be teaching and learning to guarantee relevant opportunities for personalized learning experiences.
  • We will relentlessly create a fully unified, equitable, and inclusive culture
  • We will create the climate to cultivate quality educators so they flourish in pursuit of our mission.
  • We will design systems that support our mission and beliefs.
  • We will strategically focus resources to support state-of-the-art facilities to accomplish our beliefs, mission, and objectives.

Bracketing all of that information are a series of five “parameters” which set guiding boundaries:

  • We will make decisions with primary focus on what is best for our students’ success in life.
  • We will honor our diversity and treat each person with dignity and respect.
  • We will practice responsible stewardship of all our resources and partner with our community to leverage success.
  • We will not compromise our commitment to academic excellence.
  • We will recognize and incorporate our traditions of excellence, and build our vision for the future upon their solid foundation.

The committee is expected to present the full results of its work to the board of education for approval in June.