2016-12-23 / Columns

Superintendent’s Spotlight

Strategic planning: Study in deliberate choices
By Katie Hawes Special to the Post

Strategic planning involves making deliberate choices about the areas we intend to focus our efforts on in the coming years and identifying key actions to achieve and measure our success.

Last year, I had the distinct honor of leading our district through the development of a new strategic plan. The development process spanned 10 months and involved input from more than 800 people, including students, families, employees and a wide-range of community stakeholders.

The timing of developing a district strategic plan could not have been better. The district was six years into consolidation, the voters recently passed a referendum to invest $56.5 million into the renovation of three of our schools, and two communities roundly defeated attempts to withdraw from the district.

People of all ages from our three towns engaged in multiple opportunities to step back and reflect upon our time as an RSU, examine our current strengths and needs, and establish common goals for our work ahead. In many ways, the new strategic plan represents a collective recommitment to the schools of RSU 21.

Our first strategic plan was developed immediately following the consolidation that joined our three towns into RSU 21.

The 2010-2015 strategic plan served as a guidepost for the district in the early years, providing a focus for alignment, student growth and positive outcomes. Upon reflection, progress was realized in all goal areas and many of the targets were met or surpassed.

The results are evident as the schools that make up RSU 21 consistently perform among the best in the state on academic measures and in athletic and co-curricular competitions. We offer many programs to meet the various needs of our students and to prepare each one for future success.

Beginning in kindergarten, our four elementary schools offer an aligned and cohesive curriculum, 1:1 laptops, academic instruction in foreign language, technology and engineering experiences and robust intervention and enrichment opportunities.

Throughout the elementary years, we focus on resiliency, social-emotional development, and what it means to be a global citizen. We are proud to be the only school district in Maine to have two National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence.

Middle School of the Kennebunks is the only International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program in Maine and houses the only in school, Apple Certified Center for Innovation and Design.

The school serves students in grades 6-8, offering STEM and 3D Printing and Design courses, environmental and solar studies, community service learning projects, and leadership experiences.

With more than 25 athletic teams, a variety of clubs and activities and a strong performing arts program, our middle school provides an aligned, relevant and high interest learning experience for all students.

Kennebunk High School is one of only three high schools in Maine to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Our students compete internationally and 84 percent advance to a two- or four-year college or military placement.

Sixty-five percent of our students participate in an International Baccalaureate Course or Diploma Program, Advanced Placement Exams and Early College Courses, allowing some to enter college with nearly a full year of credits already in hand.

Additional student pathways include apprenticeships, internships, a STEM endorsed diploma, a co-op work program, college preparatory classes, alternative education, and vocational studies.

Nearly 30 clubs and activities, a robust performing arts program and approximately 50 varsity and sub-varsity sports teams round out these experiences.

Looking ahead, the 2016-2021 RSU 21 strategic plan provides a framework for ensuring that our schools maintain the foundation of excellence that has come to define us while advancing our efforts in four main focus areas: strong teaching and learning, positive student outcomes, healthy learning environments, and unified schools and communities. It reflects our commitment to excellence by highlighting our current performance outcomes, identifying measurable and challenging goals, and providing key objectives and action strategies that will guide our work. In some cases, we will sustain and strengthen practices already in place. In others, we will embark on new initiatives to enhance our schools.

This ambitious plan will be successful through the continued investment, commitment and engagement of all members of our school community.

The more than 800 people who helped to shape this plan will be equally important in the successful attainment of the focus areas and performance outcomes. I look forward to implementing this plan and to realizing continued improvement in our excellent schools.

View our Strategic Plan by visiting our schools or website at www.rsu21.net.

Dr. Katie Hawes is superintendent of schools for Regional School Unit 21.

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