The Indianapolis Public Schools Strategic Plan Community Meetings are the next steps in an exciting, collaborative process to map out the future of our district. Rather than develop a strategic plan based solely on data and trends, Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, his administration and the Board of School Commissioners want everyone in the district to continue to have a voice in this process.
“Community participation is crucial to creating a strategic plan for our district,” said Dr. Ferebee. “Our stakeholders know this community well, and we know incorporating their ideas will help IPS flourish.”
Chief Strategist Le Boler, who oversees strategic plan development and implementation for the district, pointed out that collaboration with our community has marked Dr. Ferebee’s administration from the start. The administration has:
- Gathered information as part of the Superintendent’s Entry Plan from students, staff, families, businesses, non-profits, community partners and more through several different tools, including a listening and learning tour, an Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce study and survey data the district collected through K12 Insight.
- Invited statistical doctoral students from IUPUI to mine the survey data collected for further underlying trends.
- Welcomed feedback through the “Your Voice, Our Plan (YVOP)” social media initiative.
Boler said the administration and the board have encouraged “each person who touches the district directly or indirectly to share their thoughts on the state of the district and what the future should entail. We asked for everyone to care enough to honestly tell us what they felt, good and bad. We will continue to encourage ownership of successes and problem resolution. Collaboration with our stakeholders will drive each step of our journey.”
This feedback and information has generated the three areas of attention for the community meetings – Teaching and Learning, Efficient Operations and Family and Community. These meetings take this administration/board/community collaboration to the next level by gathering dedicated community members with various perspectives and expertise to help drive discussions – and ultimately draft plan content – in all three goal areas.
“IPS is a network of community schools, and the communities we serve should play an active role in shaping our district,” said Clarence Farrington School 61 Principal Carole Wilson Frye.
“I think it is important that the district has parent and community involvement because we are the ones that live in the community, have businesses in the community and know what is going on in our neighborhood and what changes we would like to see impact the school our children attend,” said Emma Vazquez, the parent of Pre-K and 5th grade students at Wendell Phillips School 63.
Deputy Superintendent for Operations Scott Martin, who will work with the Family and Community committee, agrees. “The first time I went through this I was on a school board in Iowa in a small district. We had never had a strategic plan. What I learned … was not what I thought we were going to get. Everybody came up with things to make you test where you were at,” he said.
Chief Strategist Boler indicated that’s the crux of the idea – to truly innovate we need a diverse team of individuals with different viewpoints to design our strategic plan while sharing one basic ideal, “the determination to see our amazing students succeed.”
“We want to build ownership in the future of our district, rather than merely acquiring buy-in along the way – it’s much more meaningful this way. This work is cyclical – we will jointly plan and implement, celebrate our successes, identify opportunities for improvement, act appropriately, and then celebrate more,” she said.
“When stakeholders are involved in strategic planning and the process, ownership, support and confidence in the school system are natural by-products,” said Principal Mark Nardo of George Washington Carver School 87. “All are invested and all benefit.”
Parent Brianna Merrill, who has three students, two 1st graders and a 4th grader, in Stephen Foster School 67, said, “Having parents and community members in the process means they will be involved in and more aware of any changes. Students will have knowledgeable, consistent people in the community to support them through changes.”
School Board Commissioner Mary Ann Sullivan echoed, “The plan should have broad public buy-in and the wider community should be invested in its implementation and success.” Further, she’s excited about her role in the process. “I want to listen to new ideas and get feedback on how well we are meeting the expectations of our students, families and the wider community.”
Patrick Caric, an IPS alum who attended the first Strategic Plan Community Meeting, liked what he saw and heard. “I want to commend the district and the board for the steps they’re taking and for this methodical approach to improving IPS. I really do believe we could become the best urban school district in the nation,” he said.
That’s the goal, and a strategic plan built from the innovation and input of everyone in the district is the next step in the collaborative process heading in that direction.
With so many talented people already investing both their expertise and excitement, the new IPS strategic plan is bound to be a bold and successful one that prepares and empowers our students for years to come!