For years, the Howard County Public School System has had two goals: that each student meet rigorous academic standards and perform at or above grade level, and that each student will do so in a safe and nurturing environment.
Now there are four goals, as outlined in Superintendent Renee Foose's new five-year strategic plan for the school system that was presented June 13 at the Board of Education meeting.
"The plan is a road map to prioritize and align all of our efforts in becoming the system we aspire to be by 2018," Foose said of her plan, Vision 2018: Fulfilling the Promise of Preparation. "I'm excited because this plan projects the vision of the kind of education every child deserves, where students are inspired to learn, challenged to grow and empowered to reach their goals."
Four goals are outlined in the plan for students, staff, families and the community and the system. The goals are for every students to achieve academic excellence in an inspiring, engaging and supportive environment, for every staff member to be engaged, supported and successful, for family and the community to be engaged and supported as partners in education, and for the schools to be supported by world-class organizational practices.
Foose said the plan already has a solid foundation in the "unsurpassed" work of the students, a "first-rate" staff and the support of the community.
"We have all the elements needed to evolve into a world-class educational institution that serves as a model for excellence," she said.
More than 2,400 people helped craft the plan through forums, planning teams and focus groups, Foose said. Work done by Harvard University's Center for Education Policy Research last fall, along with data gathered through a Gallup Student Poll last fall, also was included in the strategic plan. The National Student Clearinghouse, too, provided data on college participation patterns for Howard County graduates.
Foose said one of the guiding principles of the plan is to develop each student's unique gifts, and engage them in personalized, experiential and relevant learning.
"Times have changed," she said. "But education in this country has remained largely stagnant. Too many of our students are disengaged in the learning process. The tools exist to adapt to these needs."
Though students are at the center of the plan, goals have been set for all involved in the school system. Among each of the four goals are numerous expected outcomes, and even more strategies to meet those outcomes. To ensure better organizational practices, for example, Foose is establishing a zero-based budgeting system in which the annual budget is built from the ground up. Every year a report will be given on how the budget priorities are aligned to the strategic plan.
Other highlights of the plan include developing evaluation systems for all pilot programs in schools, and auditing and adjusting staffing and resources to meet goals and increase efficiencies.
Foose's strategic plan was met with applause at the meeting, and lauded by board members.
"With you as our leader, and with the board and the staff we have, we can do this," board member Ann De Lacy said to Foose. "I don't want to micro-manage you and I don't want the board to micro-manage you. We need to provide checks and balances and make sure what you're doing is right and call things into question. But this is a phenomenal piece of work."
Board members said they were looking forward to the actions to accompany the strategic plan and seeing its benchmarks met.
"This is looking at every part of the school system, every component, and provides very specific goals," said board member Sandra French.
To see the complete five-year strategic plan, Vision 2018: Fulfilling the Promise of Preparation, go to hcpss.org