A Strategic Framework Informed by the Verona Area School District Students, Staff, Families, and Community Members
Strategic Framework 2023-2028
The Verona Area School District (VASD) is collaborating with the community to develop a new Strategic Framework, including students, staff, families, and residents. VASD’s next Strategic Framework will identify, prioritize, and communicate the direction of VASD for the next five years. It will align with our mission that each student will acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve their personal goals, thrive in a diverse global society, and lead a healthy, self-fulfilling life. Over the last four months, it has been critical that we engaged and elevated all voices from the Verona area community to inform and guide the first phase of developing the Strategic Framework.
After an extensive search for experts specializing in developing school district strategic frameworks, we decided to partner with Ed Elements. This organization works with districts to build and support dynamic school systems that meet the needs of every learner, today and tomorrow. We kicked things off with the first planning meeting in August and a formal presentation to the Board of Education in early fall. The first phase of the strategic planning process has been dynamic, responsive, and focused on changes that will be successful, sustainable, and scalable.
We are excited to share that phase one included broad-reaching community engagement. We heard from over three hundred constituents throughout September and October through our engagement events. Our team completed thirty-five focus groups and ten empathy interviews, shadowed fifteen students, and created feedback spaces within the community. We also leveraged data from over three thousand respondents on the VASD Climate Survey. VASD was committed to intentionally seeking to hear from groups often underrepresented and formerly marginalized.
Focus groups were conversations with groups of up to twenty people. Each focus group responded to a similar set of questions about the priorities, experiences, opportunities, and challenges they see for the school district. During our focus groups, we heard from school leaders, non-instructional staff, non-instructional staff of color, elementary school students, middle school students, high school students, students of color, families, community members, multilingual families, families of color, and students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, or asexual (LGBTQIA+). Each group entered into the conversations frankly and honestly.
As we met with various groups of students, they were clearly invested in helping to map out their school district’s future. At the beginning of each student focus group, we explained why we sought their input and how the VASD would use the information they shared to inform the strategic framework. Students quickly understood that a strategic framework guides the priorities and work of the district and students’ educational experience. At one of the sessions, after the students were told the strategic framework spans five years, a student commented, “The whole plan covers the rest of my time in the Verona area until I graduate.” That realization helped students share their experiences and vision for what they want to experience and what they need to make learning relevant. The students sat up tall and proud as they shared their truth about school. They were valued and heard.
Our team members also shadowed students for a day – if the student went to band, the staff member went to band. If the student needed to go to the nurse’s office, the staff member went to the nurse’s office. If the student had physics or automotive class, the staff member went, too. These shadowing experiences were essential to understanding the students’ worlds from an academic and social standpoint.
Once all this data was collected, a team of staff, parents, students, and community members met to dig into the community feedback data. Their goal was to collaborate to identify the highest priorities identified during the engagement phase. Then, the team further defined these priorities.
Throughout the winter, there will be many opportunities for VASD students, staff, families, and community members to attend informational sessions in January and February to learn about and provide input on the Strategic Framework. We cannot wait to take the next step of formulating the district’s future direction based on what our students, community members, and staff members have shared with us as we work to become the model for educational excellence grounded in equity.
The photos are from a December 7 and 8 Strategic Planning Steering Team work session. They show (a) the VASD Strategic Framework timeline, (b) a group including staff, a community member, and a board member working to categorize various characteristics of a lifelong learner, and (c) a group including staff, a community member, and a student warming up for a day’s work examining data gathered from the community.