As a nation, we are committed to compulsory education for children because we see value in providing a meaningful academic experience for all. This sense of value goes beyond mere compliance with compulsory education laws due to our perception of schools’ role in making our society a better place. A few weeks ago, I surveyed our stakeholders (parents, students, staff, and community members) to determine the three words or terms that represent aspirational goals which each stakeholder believes should be at the heart of our school district’s mission. The results of the survey illustrated our shared desire to develop our children into individuals who possess a strong sense of character and who are intellectually curious. The purpose of gaining this insight into the aspirations of our community was to develop our “North Star” as a point of common allegiance to a set of shared values. Here are some of the concepts and ideals that our stakeholders identified as aspirational values that are worthy of our commitments as a school district:
- A respectful learning environment for self and others;
- Students who have a sense of perseverance and who are responsible for their success;
- Kindness and compassion for others;
- A climate wherein all students feel secure and are safe;
- A community where all are inspired to learn and grow;
- A curriculum that stresses civic values in addition to mastery of academic content;
- Inclusivity and equity for all learners;
- Integrity and honesty in the face of challenging or difficult situationsThese concepts guided our school district leaders towards the development of a values-focused mission. Based on the feedback we received from the survey, our next step was to connect the values of our community to our aspirational vision which will be:
- To deliver the highest quality education;
- To develop well-rounded students;
- To foster a community based upon respect, responsibility, caring and citizenship;
- To encourage diversity of ideas that is inclusive of different backgrounds and cultures;
- To provide a safe and nurturing environment where every student can work toward his or her full potential.
The third step towards developing our SOCSD Mission Statement, or “North Star”, involved bringing this feedback to our Extended Leadership Team (XLT) who drafted and developed value-propositions, or very rough drafts of possible mission statements. Our XLT is a group of instructional leaders (teachers and administrators) from all four SOCSD schools who were tasked with expressing the values of our community by drafting well-articulated statements of student success. After our XLT meeting on January 15, we had six draft mission statements that captured the spirit and intent that was articulated in the responses to our survey. Ultimately, we should only have one mission statement for our school district, so our next step was to identify and understand the themes and guideposts that were expressed by our XLT.
The fourth step in the process of finding our North Star was to have our Board of Education review the community’s feedback along with the value-propositions that were drafted by the XLT. At our January 23 Board of Education Workshop, the Board of Education trustees and several administrators analyzed the work of our stakeholder groups in order to identify themes and to develop an initial draft of our mission statement. To this end, our SOCSD Board of Education identified the following themes:
- High expectations / challenging curriculum;
- Future readiness and forward thinking students;
- Civics minded curriculum with an emphasis on “respect” as a civic value;
- Personalized learning for all students making every attempt to customize learning experiences for students based on interests and student choice;
- Equitable access to resources and opportunities in order that each child may reach his/her fullest potential
At the close of our Board of Education Workshop on January 23, the five themes listed above brought us one step closer to clarifying our North Star. Based upon our interpretation and understanding of the values and beliefs held by our stakeholders we are finalizing our official mission statement. This mission statement will be a powerful tool by which our school district can both achieve and measure student growth and readiness. We will accomplish this by elevating, engaging, and inspiring all students to succeed now and in the future and are committed to providing unique and differentiated experiences that ensure all students achieve their fullest potential.
The Board of Education expects to formally adopt our SOCSD Mission Statement at an upcoming Board of Education meeting and wishes to thank all of those who contributed to this process.