SMSD News: The power of planning

As we move into depths of winter, many of us are planning for the days to come: Making sure we have enough wings and chips for a COVID-safe Superbowl celebration, and enough warm clothes and gasoline for the brutally cold weather that is coming next week. 

Here in the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD), we are deeply involved in planning for the short, medium and long term. In June, 2019, the SMSD Board of Education approved a plan to guide the district’s work over the next five years and beyond. The plan was developed with input from across the community, and targets three interrelated objectives: Each student will develop a personalized learning plan that will prepare them for college and careers, with the interpersonal skills they need for life success. 

To reach these objectives, high schools will need to provide students with additional learning opportunities, including internships, credentials that qualify them for meaningful employment upon graduation, (in industries with opportunities for additional growth and development), and opportunities to gain (using a term that will be new to many) Market Value Assets. 

With support from the Kauffman Foundation, we are working with districts across the metro area to support students in obtaining Market Value Assets, which are defined as industry-valued and recognized skills acquired in high school, which create a more seamless transition for students from high school to postsecondary education and/or the workplace. To develop Market Value Assets, student need multiple and varied experiences with real-world problem-solving, communication and collaboration with people beyond the school walls. We refer to these collective changes by talking about the transition to “Real-World Learning.”

These changes were spelled out in the district’s strategic plan, and are possible because of the systematic work currently taking place to implement the plan. Last week, the community approved a $264 million bond referendum. This will allow us to do major facilities improvements (including rebuilding five elementary schools), implement facilities improvements at all our secondary buildings, and also have a long-term sustainable way to provide secondary teachers the planning time they need to transition to Real-World Learning. The Board of Education will be hearing additional information about this work at their meeting on Monday, February 8, 2021, so if you are interested in learning more, we encourage you to tune in.

In addition to the specific work to strengthen our instructional practices, the Board of Education has supported this work by continuing to implement sound financial practices that assure that the resources will be in place to support these changes, both now and in the future. Such practices include making changes to Board Policy in areas such as keeping a minimum amount in reserve (for emergencies, including impacts to the economy from local or national crises, or the failure of the state to make promised payments on time), limiting the amount that can be transferred from the operating budget to the capital outlay budget to cover maintenance salaries, and moving away from deficit spending. Through deliberate planning, working together with the Shawnee Mission community, the Shawnee Mission School District is moving forward. Thank you for supporting the long-range vision of the district, and for keeping SMSD Strong!