Visioning, Racing, Budgeting
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with vision is making a positive difference.” - Joel Barker
As we begin to look ahead to 2010 and try to make a positive difference, one of our keys to success as a district is for all of us to be on the same page. In order for us to be really successful, we must have a compelling vision of where we want to be in five years. While we have set yearly SMART goals since I have been here, it has not been clear where we want to be in the longer term. Without that vision to guide us, it is not possible to focus our efforts or to focus our resources on what are the most important priorities for our school district. As we navigate these unchartered budget difficulties, it is even more imperative that we develop a laser-like focus on what we need to do to be a great school district.
If Lucia Mar was truly an excellent school district, one of the top 5 in the nation, what would we be doing that we are not doing now? What does “excellence” really look like, and how do we get there? I posed this question to our school board earlier in the year, and we are exploring what it would mean to achieve that vision. We have started to explore what skills our students need to be successful in the 21st Century; we are going to visit two innovative education models, the Tracy Learning Center and Napa’s High Tech High, and we want to gather input from every school staff as well as the community. I will be visiting every school over the next few months to get your ideas for where we want to be, and what is most important. We can’t do everything. We must prioritize what is most important so we can prepare our students well for this ever-changing world. What skills do we need to give them so they have a competitive advantage, both nationally and internationally?
In addition to meeting with administrators, certificated and classified staff, we will also be conducting community forums to hear what our community has to say. While we will be focused on the “big picture” for our school district, we also need a vision that is achievable and practical so it can really guide our daily efforts. It is my hope that the school board will adopt a meaningful vision, mission, purpose and student outcomes by our June board meeting so we can then work on how to go about implementing this vision. That will give us next year to clarify exactly what we need to do, and to try and make sure we have the resources to pull it off. If we don’t have the staff development, technology, collaboration time and training necessary to make the vision a reality, it will just lead to frustration and stress. We will also need to continue to work together closely so teachers, classified staff and administrators can all provide guidance and input to develop a workable system to help us achieve our vision.
One of the resources I hope will be helpful to us is the Race To The Top (RTTT) initiative. Lucia Mar was the only school district in the county to apply for this grant, and while this program is not perfect, I believe it does coincide closely with most of our key goals and initiatives we already have under way. There are four key components to RTTT: standards and assessments, data systems to support instruction, great teachers and leaders, and turning around the lowest achieving schools. We are not sure whether California will be selected to receive one of the grants, and we also don’t know how much money will be distributed to our school district. However, we have begun discussions with LMUTA to agree on some of the key elements should the RTTT be funded, including the key aspect of how we hire, develop and reward great teachers and leaders, and I am excited about the possibilities to revamp our teacher and principal evaluation system, provide more training, and to use data to inform our instruction. We will keep you informed of our progress as we work together to improve our systems.
Finally, we know that our education system is still facing budget cuts over the next several years. While we do not anticipate having to make mid-year cuts, we still will have to make more cuts for the 2010-2011 school year, and 2011-2012 looks even worse as federal stimulus dollars dry up. I am once again convening a Budget Review Committee (BRC) to help me review every department and school and to make recommendations to me as to possible areas to make cuts. The BRC has their first meeting on February 4, and will meet most Thursdays at the Fireside Room, Student Services Support Center, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. until April. The meetings are open to the public, and I invite you to attend.
Once again, we have tough decisions to make. Once again, the board and I will need your help to make these decisions. I look forward to meeting with you all over the coming months so you can help us to not only survive the budget cuts but also to help us create a clear and compelling vision for the future. If we are to not only survive but to thrive, we need to define excellence and plan for it. After all, our students’ future is at stake, and they need to be prepared for that future now.