EAST GREENWICH – There’s still much work to be done, but Superintendent Alexis Meyer feels confident the community can take pride in the strategic planning currently underway.
The strategic planning work – which will clearly define a theory of action, mission and vision for the district going forward – began several months ago in December, with assistance and direction from School Committee Vice Chair Lori McEwen.
To date, four meetings have already taken place, according to Meyer, with another one on the books for May. The district will still be seeking community input, and what is currently on the table is still very much in draft form, but Meyer said plans are moving in the right direction.
“This last meeting and this draft that’s coming together is beginning to feel like we can see this work coming to fruition,” Meyer said. “Frankly, it’s exciting, and I think it will have profound meaning for the children of this community.”
The design team, which includes Superintendent Meyer, Assistant Superintendent Michael Podroza, School Committee Chair Anne Musella and Vice Chair McEwen, has been working alongside the steering committee on this effort – which includes school committee member Tim Munoz, two town council members, four district and school administrators, 11 teachers, 17 parents and three students.
“All of the work that happens in the context of the design team and the steering committee gets sent over to the synthesis team,” Meyer explained. “Which takes all of that input and tries to develop a working document of the strategic plan.”
During the April meeting, break out sessions allowed stakeholders to really delve into what’s been highlighted in the plans so far, and provide their feedback. Though the feedback that was given two weeks ago has yet to be folded into the strategic plan, Meyer said there were a lot of positive takeaways.
“We really did get a lot of positive feedback from the groups about our theory of action, because what you see highlighted is really what was coming clearly out from the discussions we were having in our strategic planning meetings,” she said.
“If we create a student-focused learning environment; if we create welcoming and safe schools where students and staff are respected and expected to succeed; if we focus on the growth, success and belonging of each and every student; if we strengthen the capabilities of our leaders, staff and systems; if our families and community is meaningfully engage – then our school community with achieve equitable outcomes and our students will thrive.”
Having high expectations, while also being sure to redefine the district’s definition of success, will be incredibly important going forward, in Meyer’s opinion. Supports that allow teaching and learning to be joyful, and celebrating all students, have also been highlighted as goals – which school committee member Alyson Powell viewed as “great outgrowth from the vision of a graduate work.”
In terms of a mission for East Greenwich Schools, Meyer particularly liked a comment that supported facilitating “an environment in which every student is genuinely known, celebrated and expected to succeed, and we embrace the promise, potential and uniqueness of each student.”
Some of the strategic goals being discussed include ways to support teaching and learning, goals for having successful and innovative systems in play – including school facility improvements, which is now an expectation for all districts across the state – and goals for fully engaging community members.
While McEwen has offered a great deal of her time and efforts to this work, she congratulated Meyer and her team for doing the lionshare of the work. Meyer’s overview of the work that’s taken place so far paints a picture of where the district’s been, and where the district still has to go.
“I think you hit the nail on the head with how it’s starting to take form,” McEwen said. “We’ve said all along that this is an ambitious timeline. We asked our strategic planning committee as one of our norms to trust the process, and it had to be a little amorphous for a while.”
“It’s coming back together,” she continued. “We got some comments from our last meeting from folks who said ‘Thank you for this,’ or ‘Thank you for sharing it this way.’ It’s imperfect, it’s still in draft form, but we were able to respond to it, and those responses lead to more conversations and discussion.”
Musella reiterated comments from Meyer and McEwen that this plan is still “very much in draft form and doesn’t reflect the last steering committee meeting.”
“Much of what happened at the last steering committee meeting was a bunch of break out sessions,” Musella said. “There’s a real opportunity to break out in small groups and really delve in.
The chair also took a few moments to recognize all the efforts of everyone working to move the district forward in this process – especially during such challenging times.
“This is one of those examples where we’re not just treading water, we’re not just dog paddling as a district,” Musella said. “Our administrators are doing an enormous amount of work to even move us forward, to a place past where we were pre-pandemic.”