Dear OSSD Community,
As we close out the current school year, we are also preparing for 2023-24. The district’s mission for next year is outlined below and will be the main topic of discussion during this summer’s strategic planning sessions.
Clear Expectations, Setting Boundaries, Recognizing Excellence
The primary goals of the district have been recovery following the COVID pandemic and achievement of the Board’s Ends. During the 2022-23 school year, students with gaps in their knowledge, identified by our local assessment systems, were provided the opportunity of additional time on learning through afterschool and summer programming. In addition, our curriculum teams re-envisioned what it means to have foundational knowledge in our academic programs, revamped their respective curricula, and reinvested their efforts across our new Math, English, and STEM programming. Our students’ achievement rose during the COVID pandemic while state and national averages fell. 2022-23 also saw the inclusion of some basic structures that are common in most districts that have historically been missing in the OSSD. In service to the Board’s Ends, our homework policy is nearing completion after being revised with student, staff, and community input; and to better understand the issues affecting the well-being of our community, the district is following through on its engagement plan.
For the first time, each school has an advisory panel populated by community members to help them predict and understand problems, vet and expand current ideas, develop strategies to combat current challenges, and to give honest advice and feedback about current initiatives. Similar structures are in place at the district level: community open forums have been reconstituted following COVID, and monthly listening sessions are conducted at each school to allow for input and advice. While this is a good start, next year’s focus turns to greater engagement with the students.
The recent climate surveys indicate that students have a lot to say about the general feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and opinions that exist within the district and across the community. They have identified several areas that need attention, and since they are the ones most affected, they should also have the best ideas on how to address them. As we move into the next school year, the district will open new channels for both student leadership and engagement to ensure their voices add to our collective work.
The main focus for 2023-24 however is trifold, with each of the three areas supporting the other two. As a district, we need to do a better job of setting clear expectations for staff and students that are communicated during our professional development workshops and assemblies and which are codified into our handbooks, processes, and procedures. Organizations improve quickly when everyone is rowing in the same direction; we guide the ship by working together to establish clear, reasonable expectations for everyone to follow, and then by holding each other accountable for their achievement.
Expectations set boundaries for our actions; they constitute the social rules we follow because we as a school community have deemed them reasonable and helpful to student success and achievement. Part of establishing boundaries is determining how we respond when they are crossed. Currently, we need to work together to find a better balance between restorative practices and traditional consequences when responding to out of bounds behaviors, as our current practices are not producing the results we would hope to see.
Lastly, we need to do a better job of recognizing excellence. Just as restorative practices and reasonable consequences can be used to reduce out of bounds behaviors, recognition can reinforce and increase in-bounds behaviors. We need both if we are to change and improve the climate within the district, a foundational requirement for academic success and social well-being. The district teams have begun discussions about the best ways to recognize excellence through new traditions and activities that will be implemented over the course of the next few years.
We currently have the academic structures in place to support effective learning and improvements have been happening slowly. We can accelerate these gains by improving school culture and climate by establishing clear expectations, setting reasonable boundaries, and recognizing excellence amongst the students and staff. Furthermore, this work, if done well, can improve well-being, satisfaction, and joy for those who work within and those who attend the district. This is our focus for the coming year.