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Meetings to focus on plan for Fort Worth schools

04/07/2013 10:39 PM

04/08/2013 4:01 PM

FORT WORTH -- Shortly after Walter Dansby took the helm of the Fort Worth school district a year ago, he unveiled a new motto.

The superintendent called it "singleness of purpose."

Dansby said the motto is a reminder that everyone is working together toward the same goals and is focused on the school district's priority: to educate children and prepare them for future success.

He sees the development and launch of a five-year strategic plan for the district as a critical step in making sure everyone is on the same page.

"It's a new day at Fort Worth ISD," Dansby says in a video about the plan. "And a new journey. A continuous one, to make us better at what we do, complete with real action plans, measures and accountability. But it is a journey that takes will, courage and intense work. And we need you to be a part of it."

Starting tonight, officials are hosting a series of community meetings to present a draft of the strategic plan and get feedback from the public.

The plan, crafted by district administrators with input from employees, students, parents and community leaders, is designed to serve as a guide for officials who will make decisions about the district and how resources are allocated, Dansby said.

In May, the school board will vote on a final recommended plan, after which campus administrators and district departments will begin creating action plans to help meet plan goals. Progress will be gauged closely, and the school board will be updated each quarter, Dansby said.

Other districts' plans

Other school districts have similar plans. The Arlington school district's "Achieve Today, Excel Tomorrow" 2012-15 strategic plan is its first comprehensive plan in many years. The district aspires to be "a high-performing, technology-rich school district with leading edge learning experiences that promote engagement, creativity, critical thinking and achievement."

The Grapevine-Colleyville school district's 10-year "LEAD 2021" plan promotes changing the district's culture to embrace innovation and support students, staff and the community. LEAD stands for Leading Excellence -- Action Driven.

A strategic plan is the blueprint that helps school officials identify where the district wants to go and what measures to take to get there, education experts said.

"It is about your vision and direction of where you want the district to go. You need to pull a representative group of stakeholders together from time to time and talk about those big issues, those important things about what they want for their schools in their communities," said Susan Holley, associate executive director of instructional support and leadership development for the Texas Association of School Administrators.

Fort Worth school officials held a two-day workshop in January with teachers, high school students, government leaders, faith-based organizations and chamber of commerce members.

The group went over demographics and other data and shared expectations and ideas to help district officials craft a strategic plan.

Four broad goals

The plan lays out four broad goals, identifies objectives for each one and gives action plans that will be used to achieve the target. Each goal has specific measurements that will determine if goals are being met.

Dansby calls it a continuous improvement plan because it is designed to make officials study the outcome of their actions and make changes to what's not working.

"If we see mistakes, we need to correct them then, not wait until the end of the semester to correct the mistake. The only way you can do that is constantly look at what you're doing and set the stage for real thoughtful conversations about what changes need to be made," Dansby said. "I give it the term 'a living document.' That is, something that we're constantly looking at, and it constantly may need to be changed based on the circumstances we find ourselves in. We've got to be flexible in our approach. And it's all data-driven."

That follow-up is crucial, said Charlie Anderson, a Benbrook City Council member who heard a presentation on the plan last week.

"I'm very comfortable that this is not a for-show document. This is a for-real document. This is what the board and the administration plan for the Fort Worth ISD to press forward, and I'm very pleased with it," said Anderson, who retired as general manager of General Dynamics.

"After you've been around for a while and gone through these things, you can tell when people are blowing smoke. These people are not blowing smoke. They are dead serious."

Staff writer Shirley Jinkins contributed to this report.

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326

Twitter: @jessamybrown

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