Lawrence school board members ask for equity to be visibly included in strategic plan themes

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Martha Greenway, of Atlanta-based Greenway Strategy Group, gives a presentation on the district's strategic planning process at the Lawrence school board meeting on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019.

The Lawrence school district’s first strategic plan is well underway, and school board members want to make sure that equity is addressed in each of five themes it includes.

The school board on Monday heard from Martha Greenway, of Atlanta-based Greenway Strategy Group. Greenway has met with various district stakeholders, looked at data on student outcomes and performance — which she included in her report — and taken into account feedback the district has received in surveys and forums.

With that, the five themes Greenway identified for the strategic plan are effective and committed employees; guaranteed and cohesive curriculum; student-centered learning; social/emotional support for students; and data-informed decisions. She also identified priority outcomes, including increasing literacy by third grade and math proficiency by eighth, narrowing achievement gaps between student groups, and improving the district’s graduation rate.

Board member Kelly Jones pointed out that within a year, the makeup of the school board could be very different. She requested that it be explicitly stated either along with each theme or in an overarching way that all themes would be addressed through an equity lens.

“We have to interweave those efforts into each one of the other strategic themes,” Greenway said. “So for example, there are things we can do about which teachers we choose to hire and which students they teach that can influence equity and inclusion.

“There are things we can do around what kind of curriculum choices we make, what kind of curriculum content we design,” she continued. “There are things we can do around getting students culturally relevant or individualized learning experiences and ensuring that all students have equal access to the kinds of things we provide.”

Greenway said she had considered adding a thread through the flowchart of strategic plan themes that would show that equitable practices are woven into each.

“I would personally appreciate that, to just to see the word or to see a couple of words that speak to that so that this doesn’t become too broad and lose its focus down the line as we utilize the strategic plan,” Jones said.

Board Vice President Melissa Johnson agreed with Jones, and emphasized “making sure we purposefully place that in the strategic initiatives, what equity work will do in each theme.”

Superintendent Anthony Lewis will meet with students, teachers and staff on Tuesday, and district and school administrators on Thursday, to talk about what works or doesn’t work well within the plan’s framework, what’s missing and what ideas people have for the themes and the next step, strategic initiatives.

Two community forums that will ask the same questions are scheduled: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Billy Mills Middle School, 2734 Louisiana St., and 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 4 at Connect Church, 3351 W. 31st St.

• • •

In other business:

• Lewis announced that the district’s middle and high school students will be able to check out their devices for the summer, beginning this year. He said parents will receive more information about that this week.

• Lewis also announced that a second community conversation on public safety will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28 at Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive.

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Samrie Devin, the Lawrence school district’s director of human resources, and Dave Cunningham, executive director of HR and chief legal counsel, give a report to the school board at its meeting on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019.

• The board heard a report from district human resources administrators Samrie Devin and Dave Cunningham. Devin shared some goals HR has, which include re-examining and modifying the district’s exit survey and conducting “stay” interviews with staff members of color and first- and second-year teachers.

“Retention is more impactful than recruitment,” Devin said, so HR wants to do face-to-face interviews to find out what makes people want to stay and what triggers might cause them to look for other employment.

• Lewis said district staff and administrators are working to formulate a plan to get high school students back up to the state-required instruction hours after six inclement weather days this year. Previously, only high school seniors were behind; that changed with the Feb. 20 snow day, so he said the high schools will most likely add minutes to days for the rest of the year.

He also said he’s heard from classified staff concerned about the loss of pay for those days, and staff will be paid for Feb. 20.

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