Raising children takes a community and the same goes for planning out a school district’s future. Area residents are being included in an ongoing discussion on how to shape the outlook of the Santa Monica-Malibu School District and the thousands of children that attend its schools.
In April, three open houses invited parents and residents to share their ideas about how schools are working or where improvements need to be made. Board members commended on the “surprising” and overwhelming interest from parents and residents. Superintendent Tim Cuneo reiterated at the May 6 school board meeting that the strategic planning process will shape the long and short term goals of the district.
At the open houses, parents grouped together discussing classroom issues or praising individual schools for the work being done. A few parents walked along the panels reading the Spanish boards, while others stood reading the English version. School board members were on hand to speak with any visitors and give direction to the large displays.
Cuneo presented findings from the open houses that will now be used in the next step of planning, called the Planning Advance. Community business members, teachers, certified staff, and neighborhood organization leaders will discuss instructional focus, community reactions, and the future of student education. The approximately 100 invited will break into three panels.
Futurists will decide best practices and practitioners will discuss how to prepare teachers and administration for the future. Perhaps the most first-hand discussion will be recent graduates of the district, who will give feedback on what worked and what they wish they learned to prepare them for the job market.
“We know that today’s kindergartener will graduate in 2023,” Cuneo said. “We need to carefully consider the experiences and skills that we want our children to be able to learn and be able to do in order to be successful in the community. ”
If the Planning Advance goes as planned, then it is another opportunity for residents to decide the district’s vision for the next three to five years. After the advance and further discussion by the board, staff will present the conclusions to the public in September. Not to hasten any decisions, a second round of open houses will be held in October, before any final review by the board.
Board members Ralph Mechur and Jose Escarse stressed the importance of planning for the arts and humanities. A friendly competition arose over the bigger advocate, but the message was the same: The erosion of the humanities cannot continue. Although the requirements of the future labor force are hard to predict, the district is attempting to collectively gaze into the looking glass and find the right skills to give students, or sometimes better known as, the future leaders of America.
For a complete look at the open house panels detailing the district’s history, accomplishments, and goals visit http://www.smmusd.org/board/StrategicPlan2010.html.
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