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Bexley's Bold Strategic Plan
Posted 12/6/2018 at 2:37:42 PM by James Harless [staff member]

Over the past few weeks, I have written about the three of the four themes upon which our Bexley Blueprint is built.  The four themes that guide our work are as follows:

Build upon a student-centered learning culture
Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities
Leverage and grow vital community relationships
Develop a high-performing team

Today, I am pleased to address our fourth, and perhaps most foundational, theme: Develop a high-performing team.    Relationships and service to students are at the heart of education; therefore, a high-performing team is foundational to achieving the goals and objectives set forth on our strategic plan.   How do we develop a high-performing team?  We invest in our people. 

We have set an objective to achieve the optimal Bexley culture over the next three years?  We will meet that objective when we have consistently aligned our team to common vision, mission, and values across the district.  We will collectively work to deliver an exceptional K-12 experience that will lead to students who are engaged, equipped, and empowered for their future. 

A second indicator of our progress toward the optimal Bexley culture is a learning environment in which staff and parents are knowledgeable of 21st Century learning in order to support student learning goals.  Once again, common goals and common understanding among the team is foundational to achieving the goals that we have for our students.

We have identified four strategies that we will implement this year in order to move toward developing our high-performing team.  Those strategies are as follows:

1.     Consistently communicate vision, mission, and values to staff, students, parents, and community via multiple formats. 

2.     Administrators participate in specific leadership development programs.

3.     Implement a Parent Institute.

4.     Implement district-wide instructional goals that confirm the Bexley learning philosophy. 

I can report that we are well on our way to implementing these strategies and moving toward our goals and objectives.  We have taken steps to improve professional learning experiences for staff and administrators aligned to our instructional goals.  We have begun the steps to launch our Parent Institute in early 2019.  And we have begun establishing structures to support teachers in understanding and implementing instructional goals based upon student data.  All of our work will help all of us work together in supporting our drive to be Bexley Bold.

To learn more, please visit our website:  https://www.bexleyschools.org/Strategy.aspx

Bexley’s Bold Strategic Plan

Bexley's Bold Strategic Plan
Posted 11/22/2018 at 2:38:10 PM by James Harless [staff member]

November 22, 2018

I have been writing about each of the four themes around which our Bexley Blueprint is built.  The four themes that guide our work are as follows:

Build upon a student-centered learning culture
Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities
Leverage and grow vital community relationships
Develop a high-performing team

I would like to take this opportunity to share more detail about what it means to “Leverage and grow vital community relationships.”  We want to collaborate with business, civic, cultural, and philanthropic organizations to create innovative learning experiences for our students.  There is a saying: Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.   The more ways that we can involve students in active learning, the better we will engage, equip, and empower them.  We would like to grow our relationships in order to expand learning experiences to students, and that is why this theme is so important.

It is our objective to achieve vital relationships to dramatically enhance students’ experiences and future opportunities in the next three years.  How will we know that we have met that objective?  We will have developed partnerships for career and college exploration and planning.  We will have created partnerships for diverse learning and service experiences.  And we will have evolved and strengthened our partnership with the Bexley Education Foundation and other community organizations to impact a positive student experience.  

The next question, is what steps will we take to get there?  In the first year of our Bexley Blueprint we are focused on assessing and prioritizing the highest-impact partnership opportunities and build capacity to build and leverage those partnerships.  In order to cultivate the partnership and internship and service learning opportunities for our students, we will identify a role and responsibilities for this work.  Specifically, we will develop a job description for an experiential learning coordinator/coach.  This role may be fulfilled by a current staff member or could be a new role for Bexley Schools.  More study will need to be completed to make that determination.

We are well aware that the knowledge, skills, and mindsets that will help our students to be successful in school and into their futures will require new ways of teaching and partnerships that do more than provide surface relationships.  And we are fortunate to have the opportunity to create those partnerships with those of you who live right here in our community.  With you we will provide that exceptional education for today and tomorrow!

To learn more, please visit our website:  https://www.bexleyschools.org/Strateghttps://www.bexleyschools.org/Strateg

Bexley’s Bold Strategic Plan
Posted 11/8/2018 at 3:04:09 PM by James Harless [staff member]
Two weeks ago, I wrote about one of the four themes around which our Bexley Blueprint is built. The four themes that guide our work are as follows:

Build upon a student-centered learning culture
Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities
Leverage and grow vital community relationships
Develop a high-performing team

I would like to take this opportunity to share some more detail about what it means to “Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities. As we plan instruction in order to develop our students for their futures, we must be cognizant of the fact that the world is changing rapidly. If we want our students to be prepared for that new world, we must be flexible, responsive, innovative, and creative while developing those same skills in our students. 

Take a look at this video from Ted Dintersmith’s website entitled, The Future of Work.

https://teddintersmith.com/videos/

That video shows the technology of today! The education that we provide should match what is happening in our world. After all, what will our kindergarten students see when they graduate from Bexley High School in 2031? Now more than ever, our students need a wide range of skills and opportunities.

To meet those needs, our planning and our actions must be intentional. Within the Bexley Blueprint and this specific goal, is the development of a Bexley Student Success Profile. This profile will clearly articulate what we want EACH Bexley student to become by the time they complete high school. We will articulate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes or mind-sets that will propel our student to a future of their choosing. 

In addition, we will be intentional about helping our students to have the educational experiences that allow them to achieve that which we articulate for our Student Success Profile. We have identified three indicators of growth toward our goal that we plan to achieve in the next three years:

1.     Align department academic curriculum K-12.

2.     Select and implement district-wide instructional leadership and instructional coaching practices.

3.     Align and enhance curriculum with innovative teaching models and integrated technology.

To realize these indicators of success, we will implement our new curriculum review and revision process with fidelity. We will invest in instructional leadership and instructional coaching to maximize our knowledge and skills as the adults and lead learners in our District. And we will identify structures to support innovative teaching.

The way that we engage, equip, and empower our students is through clear articulation of our Student Success Profile and investment in instructional programming that helps each student to achieve that profile. 

Implementing the Bexley Blueprint is not the end of our work; It is another marker in the significant work we have ahead. I will continue to communicate with you about our work and progress as we go along.

To learn more, please visit our website: https://www.bexleyschools.org/Strategy.aspx

Bexley’s Bold Strategic Plan
Posted 10/24/2018 at 1:16:52 PM by James Harless [staff member]

After months of gathering input from our students, staff, parents, and community, Bexley Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt a strategic plan.  This strategic plan is the first updated strategic work since 2007-2008.  Further, the plan was developed as a result of data gathered from nine focus groups and over 3000 distributed surveys in which stakeholders were asked to respond to questions regarding the strengths of our district and the areas for growth and improvement.  The plan is organized around four, bold themes that emerged from the data gathering:

Build upon a student-centered learning culture
Open doors that lead to flexible, expansive future opportunities
Leverage and grow vital community relationships
Develop a high-performing team

Leading up to winter break, I would like to provide a little more explanation of each theme and the work that will be done around that theme.  I will begin with B – Build upon a student-centered learning culture.

Bexley Schools have always been focused on students and their learning.  But what does a student-centered learning culture look like today and into the future?

At the roll-out of the Bexley Blueprint on October 17, three Bexley teachers shared what this concept looks like at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  It is thinking.  Thinking about problems, thinking about solutions, thinking about ideas. It is solving problems; asking questions and not just giving answers; creativity and innovation; tying, failing, and improving.  It is helping students to see the process of learning and not just the outcome.  It is debate and discussion.  It is messy; it is loud, and it is rigorous.  It is personalized.

What is the point? Our strategic plan is developed to accomplish specific objectives in a three-year time frame.  The objective for the theme of building upon a student-centered learning culture is to “Build and utilize a Student Success Profile as a foundation for learning.”  

How will we know if we get to that objective?  We have identified four indicators of growth.

1.    Cultivate a culture in which we collaborate with students and families to develop a personalized learning and growth plan for EACH Bexley student.

2.    Address opportunity and achievement gaps to include all aspects of student performance (including extra-curricular areas).

3.    Develop social and emotional health literacies K-12 (including in extra-curricular areas).

4.    Create optimal learning environments that promote engaging, innovative, and effective teaching and learning.

We have also set goals to accomplish this year toward our objective.  Please visit our website for those goals and additional information about our process and overall plan.

https://www.bexleyschools.org/Strategy.aspx

When Old Meets New
Posted 9/13/2018 at 1:51:13 PM by James Harless [staff member]
With a new strategic plan, what is the future of the different best practices in the district? The answer to the question lies in the importance of this plan to our schools. The new strategic plan will bring alignment to our academics and also align our entire budget to these resources. Throughout the organization, all resources and work will align to the important work as identified by the community, teachers, staff and students on this plan.

As we prepare to officially launch the plan in October, it is important to remember why our schools engaged in this process. It is simple: The board wished to answer the question, “What is the future that we want for our Bexley City Schools?”  Doing so came at the perfect time. The last strategic plan took place more than 10-years-ago and the educational landscape has changed significantly during that time. In order continue as a successful district we must acknowledge and respond to changes with strategic vision and planning.

In embarking on a new strategic plan, it was important to us that all stakeholders have an opportunity to participate in developing the answer that best represents what we want from our schools. In doing so, we launched an extensive community-based process. Throughout the process we gathered input from the community, teachers and staff and students. Specifically, the following data sources were used:

      • Technology Integration Surveys November ‘17
      • Public Opinion Survey (Fallon Research January ‘18)
      • Teacher surveys regarding curriculum and instruction (Fall ‘17)
      • Formal and informal meetings with students, staff, parents, and community members
      • Board of Education Interviews
      • Focus Groups – over 300 individuals invited to participate in one of nine focus groups 
         (students, staff, parents, community)
      • Over 3000 online surveys distributed to students, staff, parents, and community members
      • External data gathering via the review of similar districts as well as local and national trends

In working through the community process and as our schools aligned more with a common philosophy, it is important to provide alignment with opportunities for students across schools and grade levels.  Along the way, we answered the question, “What does this information mean for the different best practices at each school? Will they go away?”

Focusing Best Practices with our Vision
Bexley City Schools personnel will continue aspects of the different best practices that continue to align with our new vision and mission. The workshop structure at Montrose is a solid structure that allows teachers to meet the individual needs of students, and we will not only keep that structure at Montrose but continue to expand it across all schools and grade levels.  

The work at Montrose is evidence and researched based. 

Maryland aligned to the Effective Schools research of the 1970s.  This research led to a framework for school improvement that promoted quality and equity to lead to high student achievement (Taylor, 1990).  Maryland teachers were supported in this work by two outside consultants.  We will expand this support to all elementary teachers particularly focusing on the development of units of study for our new science curriculum, which is currently being developed.  

Cassingham Elementary became an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme school.  The Middle School aligned to the IB Middle Years Programme.   These IB programs include an inquiry-led, transdisciplinary framework that “challenges students to think for themselves and take responsibility for their learning as they explore local and global issues and opportunities in real-life contexts” (International Baccalaureate, 2018). 

We believe so much in an inquiry-based approach to learning that this past summer we supported teachers in learning more about teaching for creativity at the Columbus Museum of Art, problem-based learning with the PAST Foundation, and this year a number of teachers and administrators will participate in professional learning with Harvard’s Project Zero, which focuses on developing the thinking skills of students.  Moving forward we will support the philosophies of IB for students and teachers at all five schools.  

Finally, the High School previously aligned to Advanced Placement courses, from College Board.  Advanced Placement is not a best practice but a set of courses.  We expanded our AP offerings this year to include three additional courses.

Alignment and Opportunities for All Students
In short, if a philosophy, structure, or instructional strategy is a best practice, we believe that EACH student in our schools should benefit from it.  Therefore, while we will no longer align different schools with different practices, we will expand what is beneficial from those practices to all schools.  This decision is based upon the feedback gathered during the strategic planning process.  Our new plan focuses on equity of opportunity for EACH student.  To maintain separate best practices would not be in line with the data that our stakeholders have provided.  

Any time that a new plan is developed, something of the past must change.  One of the greatest challenges in education is the propensity to add to teachers’ and administrators’ responsibilities but never to remove anything.  We cannot implement our new vision and mission if we are unwilling to let some of the old structures go.  As I have indicated above, we will always keep what is effective, but after 15 years of implementing separate best practices, it is time to allocate our time and financial resources to the new strategies that will benefit our students.  We cannot afford to stress our staff or our financial resources to continue work that we have mastered.  

Our strategic plan is our new Bexley Blueprint for engaging, equipping, and empowering each student.  The only way to be responsible to the learning of each student, both today and tomorrow, is to align our strategies, professional development, and support for our students. And that is our commitment to our students, our staff, and our community.

In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. – Abraham Maslow

Becoming is better than being. – Carol Dweck

We are stepping forward to that we can become what our students need us to be.



References
Harvard Graduate School of Education. (2016). Project Zero.  Date retrieved September 12, 2018. http://www.pz.harvard.edu/

International Baccalaureate. (2018). Middle years programme. Date retrieved September 12, 2018. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/middle-years-programme/

International Baccalaureate. (2018). Primary years programme. Date retrieved September 12, 2018. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/primary-years-programme/

Taylor, B.O., & National Center for Effective Schools Research and Development, M.W. (1990). Case studies in effective schools’ research. 


*For the 2018-19 academic year, Cassingham will continue to be identified with IB as a partner school; however, we will not continue to pay the fee for participation beginning in 2019-20.  The Middle School, with input from the staff, elected to no longer identify as an IB school this year.  


August 15, 2018, We Can Because We are Bold

It’s 5:00 PM and the first day of the 2018-2019 school year is in the books! And what a great day it has been!

I had the pleasure of spending time in each of our five schools, and in each school, I saw smiles everywhere.   On the sidewalks entering our buildings, in the hallways, in the classrooms, in the cafeterias.  Those smiles are evidence of how each new year brings with it renewed energy and commitment to our students and their learning.  But this year is really special.
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The Here and Now

As we near the end of another school year, we often think of graduation and those students who are moving on.  And that makes sense.  We are excited to hear of their post-high school plans.  It is an exciting time for them and for those of us who have been fortunate to be part of their journey. They are setting off to the future that they worked for and will make our community proud. More +

Defining Student Success in Bexley

21st Century Skills.

College and Career Ready.

Prepared for Success.
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Alignment

In December I had to buy new tires for my car.  Ugh!  There is nothing that I dislike more than spending money on things that I don’t enjoy.  Now I understand that if I don’t buy new tires, at some point I will truly pay.  But tires, windows, furnace filters.   Just not fun expenditures. More +

Relationships & Connections That Come From Reading Together

One of the great joys that I have experienced as a parent is reading with my children, especially in the dark and cold months of winter. When my son and daughter were young, I loved nothing more than snuggling with them under a blanket or in front of a fire to read books that took us to faraway places, made us laugh, or helped us to understand a hurt or problem that we were experiencing. More +