April 20, 2021 – Update – GFW School Board Officially Adopts Five Year Strategic Plan
The plan was developed with strong community participation
At their meeting on April 19, the GFW Public Schools Board formally adopted a new strategic plan that will guide the district for the next five years. Conducting a strategic planning process was one of the goals introduced by Superintendent Horton during his first 100 day plan, and as a pledge of what the district would do following the operating levy which was supported by more than 60% of voters in August, 2020.
The process involved a number of ways for community members to be involved including several listening sessions with the superintendent that took place in each community, equity and district surveys to community members, staff, and students, and a strategic planning committee made up of almost 50 community members. The Minnesota School Boards Association assisted in the development and facilitation of the planning process and provided guidance to the district throughout.
“During the levy process, we promised to look at every aspect of our district and find ways to define and strengthen our identity, and developing a strategic plan was a big part of that,” said Superintendent Jeff Horton. “Connecting with community members during this process allowed for a greater understanding of our community and what role we need to play as a district. Seeing our students take such an active role during the development of our belief, mission, and vision statements was truly inspiring and I know that this plan is absolutely community inspired and community focused.”
The new GFW Strategic Plan provides a series of belief statements that will guide decision making in the district as well as a new mission statement and vision statement to update what GFW Public Schools stands for. The new mission statement for GFW Public Schools is to “Provide an equitable and quality education that meets the individual needs of our students to thrive in the 21st Century.” This mission statement will be updated throughout district materials to set a new course for GFW.
A new Vision Statement was also adopted by the district, one that came directly from community members who served on the Strategic Planning Committee. “Growing Future World Class Leaders (GFW)” is the new vision of the district which puts a focus directly on student achievement, which is one of the newly established focus areas for goals.
“Being a part of the session where our community members were discussing vision and mission statements was a highlight of my time as a board member,” said Board Chair Mike Keuhn. “Our students, staff, and parents are so integral to our success as a district and I could not be more proud of our newly refined mission and vision for GFW Public Schools.”
Focus areas for the Strategic Plan include:
- Student Achievement
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Community and Family Engagement
- Positive School Climate
GFW Public Schools will continue to provide updates on the details of the strategic plan as well as communicating benchmarks and achievements that are part of the plan.
March 26, 2021 Update
GFW Strategic Planning Committee Meeting #3
The third and final meeting of the GFW Strategic Planning Committee took place virtually via Zoom video conference and was broadcast live via YouTube on Wednesday, March 24. The strategic planning process is wrapping up and was very collaborative. It included a large Strategic Planning Committee made up of community members, input from continuous improvement teams at each school building, community wide surveys, nine listening sessions across the district, and equity diagnostic surveys.
Minnesota School Boards Association Director of Strategic Planning and Board Leadership Gail Gilman led the meeting and assisted the committee in finalizing their work, which will now move to the administration and school board to develop an action plan to meet the goals and objectives identified by the committee.
The first task was to go over district belief statements that were written by the committee and voted on throughout the process. Members discussed belief statements and provided input and direction on the best areas for the statements to focus on. The district will adopt several belief statements that will define who GFW Public Schools is as a district and will become the values that the school board and administration will use in decision making.
The committee also discussed options for new mission and vision statements for GFW Public Schools. A mission statement defines the present state and purpose of the school district and answers the questions “what result and for whom?” and “why do we exist?” while reflecting the beliefs of the district. A vision statement is meant to provide guidance and inspiration as to what the school district is focused on achieving in the next three to five or more years while answering the question “what do we want to become in the future?” The group discussed options and their suggestions will now move to the school board for consideration.
Superintendent Horton summarized the community listening sessions that were held throughout the process in each city. Priorities brought up by the community included more opportunities for students in college and career readiness, support for EL students, and improving finances by getting out of statutory operating debt. He shared that the input gathered very much aligned with that of the strategic planning committee and the data from the surveys.
The committee also discussed goals and objectives for the district that would be part of the strategic plan. A team of staff and administration drafted goals in several areas along with a series of objectives that serve those goals.
Focus areas for goals and objectives were:
- Student Achievement
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Community and Family Engagement
- Positive School Climate
GFW Public Schools would like to once again thank the members of the Strategic Planning Committee for their time over the past month and their work to identify priorities for our district. The process has been very inclusive and many voices contributed to the formation of the plan. A strategic plan is a great first step in setting GFW up for a strong future. Next steps in the process include a draft plan with review from administration, board action to approve beliefs, mission, vision, goals, and objectives that were identified by the committee, and development of a timeline and action plans.
March 8, 2021 Update
GFW Strategic Planning Committee Meeting #2
The second meeting of the GFW Strategic Planning Committee took place virtually via Zoom video conference and was broadcast live via Facebook on Monday, March 8 from 6 to 8 p.m. The meeting began with introductions from all committee members, many of whom have spent their entire lives in the communities of Gibbon, Fairfax, and Winthrop. The committee represents a cross section of community members including students, staff, business owners, farmers, school board members, and alumni.
Superintendent Horton presented on the recent equity survey that was done in cooperation with school districts across the country and Hanover Research. The survey identified equity as a high priority for GFW Public Schools. The goal of this tool is to find strategies to be able to provide opportunities for high achievement for all students.
The committee identified what they saw as the “Prouds, Possibilities, and Must Haves” for the school district. Some of the areas listed under “Prouds” were amazing staff at all levels, small class sizes, community support and school pride, great technology and other opportunities for students, and a great Early Childhood program that leads kids to a positive school experience. Some of the “Possibilities” identified included need for college/career preparedness, building student and staff morale, additional support for ELL students, curriculum review, expanded programming to attract students and new families to the district, and continuing to improve communication in the district.
Many of the “Possibilities” tied directly to the “Must Haves” including retaining and growing enrollment, increased support for students, stabilize finances, improved communication, remaining relevant in technology, and making facilities updates as needed. These themes have been identified throughout the strategic planning process and are remaining consistent as community priorities.
Five possible focus areas were discussed by the committee:
- Student Achievement
- Student Support or Student/Staff Support
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Committee discussion around the five focus areas was very positive with members agreeing that students are the center of this strategic planning process and that all school district goals need to ultimately work to serve student achievement.
The group also discussed belief statements, which are values that the group holds for the school district. These statements will be used by the school board to make difficult decisions based on the values and beliefs of the district and help to inform a Mission Statement, which the group also discussed. Committee members thought that the district’s current mission statement was good, but that it is time for a new mission statement that identifies who GFW Public Schools is as a district now.
A next step in the process is to build upon the five focus areas and establish goals and objectives based on items that fall under those areas. A mission statement and vision statement will also be further discussed and developed. The GFW Strategic Planning Committee will meet again on Wednesday, March 24 and discuss goals and objectives, as well review options for Belief, Vision, and Mission Statements to be finalized.
March 3, 2021 Update
GFW Strategic Planning Committee Formation and Meeting
The first meeting of the GFW Strategic Planning Committee took place virtually via Zoom video conference and was broadcast live via Facebook on Monday, March 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. Committee members heard updates from district administration and Minnesota School Boards Association Director of Strategic Planning and Board Leadership Gail Gilman and kicked off the process of strategic planning at GFW Public Schools.
Superintendent Horton provided a presentation on the State of the School District which touched on data including legal requirements, staffing data, academic progress, and district finances. Principals Thompson and Galetka presented on their respective school building data and findings of the comprehensive needs assessments, which was done in partnership with their continuous improvement teams (CIT). Other issues included identified areas of concern, root cause analysis, and solutions that are being pursued or considered by the district.
The presentation from MSBA included an overview of the board governance model and school district goals as well as an overview of data that was collected during the Strategic Planning Listening Sessions and internal and external stakeholder surveys. Surveys submitted included 33 internal responses (staff) and 128 external community responses and the committee was able to review all data collected.
Some of the strengths identified during that process included strong community support, committed and caring staff and administration, small class sizes, and a focus on updated technology within the district. A number of opportunities for improvement that were brought up during the listening sessions were also presented including a need for a facilities review, improved staff development opportunities, and increased course offerings in subjects like life skills, art, AP, business, and agriculture.
Each Strategic Planning Committee member was tasked with participating in a focus area analysis to identify “Prouds”, “Possibilities”, and “Must Haves” for the next meeting taking place on March 8, 2021. Next steps include developing belief statements, as well as creating a mission statement and vision statement for the district while identifying goals for the district for the next 3-5 years.
- GFW Strategic Planning Committee 2021
- State of the School District Presentation – GFW March 1, 2021
- GFW Elementary Comprehensive Needs Assessment Presentation
- GFW Jr_Sr High School Comprehensive Needs Assessment Presentation
- Stakeholder Engagement Report – GFW Public Schools
February 11, 2021 Update
GFW Schools is in the initial stage of developing a strategic plan. The school board is working with the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) to provide guidance and assist with the planning. There are now a number of ways to Get Involved with GFW Strategic Planning including a Community Input Survey, a community listening session taking place during GFW Supt Talk on Tuesday, February 16 from 7-8 p.m. and additional community listening sessions in each community in our district.
January 14, 2021 Update
At the January 11 meeting of the GFW School Board, Minnesota School Boards Association’s Director of Strategic Planning and Board Leadership, Gail Gilman helped to move the district along the path of identifying the plan and future of GFW Schools. The timetable and next steps for the process were presented as well as more information on what makes this process so essential for school districts.
The basis of a Strategic Plan is moving ahead with a visionary roadmap for the district. Ms. Gilman presented on the standards for school board leadership as well as strategic governance framework while emphasising that at the center of all of this is the focus of student achievement for all. A number of initiatives will be tied into the strategic planning process including an equity and inclusion survey, building needs assessments, and the OBA budget assessment, which is aimed to address the district’s financial situation and right the ship.
A Strategic Plan is one of the number one priorities for a school board and is a legal requirement in the state of Minnesota. This is a community-focused process whose goal is to ensure that the values, needs, feelings, and philosophies of the communities within the school district are represented.
The next steps in the Strategic Planning process include:
- Formation of a Strategic Planning Committee with both internal and external stakeholders by the Superintendent and School Board.
- Surveys of both internal and external stakeholders (Survey will be distributed in early February and available for 2-3 weeks).
- Day of listening sessions (February 16, 2021) – Several sessions will take place with a number of audiences including: students, staff (licensed and non-licensed), Superintendent and administrative team, School Board and student reps, as well as community members.
- Superintendent Horton will also host additional listening sessions (dates TBA).
The results of these initiatives will be the framework for the rest of the planning process which will include three Strategic Planning Committee meetings that will accomplish the following tasks:
- Meeting 1 (March 1, 2021) – Sharing what was learned in surveys and listening sessions as well as hearing the Superintendent present on the State of the School District.
- Meeting 2 (March 8, 2021) – Setting foundational elements of the strategic plan including belief statements, mission statement, and vision statement.
- Meeting 3 (March 24, 2021) – Setting goals and objectives based on what was heard during listening sessions/surveys.
The Strategic Plan will be used to tie board and superintendent goals to the goals and priorities of the community to guide decision making for GFW Schools going forward. The process will be an inclusive one that paves the way for a positive path forward for our school district. The plan is expected to be finalized in early April.
At the November 2, 2020 school board meeting, Superintendent Jeff Horton wrapped up his First 100 Day Plan for GFW Public Schools as well as announced the next steps in the process for shaping the district.
The strategic planning process will include identifying district goals and aligning community values and priorities with district operations. GFW plans to involve district stakeholders at every level in the process to develop a vision and mission for GFW that will define the district for years to come while guiding its day-to-day operations and identity. The district will be basing this planning process on a budgeting model called Operational Budget Assistance (OBA) to set a stable and sustainable budget that the district can build upon.
This webpage will be updated with more resources and opportunities to participate throughout this process.
What is Strategic Planning?
Strategic planning is a process that guides our work, rooted in financial stability and provides benchmarks that can be reviewed each year to measure how we are improving as an organization. Results of a strategic planning process will be to define and sets several meaningful items for GFW Schools including:
- Belief Statement(s)
The school district’s Strategic Plan is the Board’s visionary road map for governing while focusing on student achievement for all. To govern successfully, MSBA recommends the School Board utilize their district’s Strategic Plan regularly when making decisions especially during challenging times.
It is important to have an up-to-date, easy to follow Strategic Plan that sets the district’s direction and goals. Once the strategic direction and goals are in place, the School Board can align district goals with the Superintendent goals and Board goals.