Geneva School District implements strategic plan

Continuing the process started in 2009, the Geneva City School District is implementing the Strategic Plan developed to guide the direction of the district for the next three to five years.Guided by a penetrating analysis of the district’s strengths and weaknesses by the University of Rochester’s respected Warner School of Education, the District Planning Team of school staff and community members and the Warner Team developed the plan that was approved by the Board of Education last month. The plan is posted on the district’s Web site at www.genevacsd.org.Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Young emphasized that the plan includes specific goals and benchmarks for measuring progress toward meeting those goals.The key objectives targeted in the plan are:- Improving the literacy of Pre-Kindergarten through 5th Grade students;- Improving the graduation rate of Geneva High School students;- Making dignity and responsibility the core values of the Middle School and High School communities;- Measuring the quality of district support services on the basis of cost containment and customer satisfaction; and- Allocating resources, priorities and commitment on achieving the district mission.Dr. Young said the school district is focused on uniting the school staff and the community around the direction outlined in the plan. “This is the way we are going,” he added.Young praised the collaborative effort involved by school staff and community members in developing the plan and pledged to continue working together.For each of the goals, the plan identifies specific oversight, support, first-year key measures and a Warner School facilitator. To improve literacy in elementary grades, the joint K-5 English Language Arts team assembled this month will work this school year on identifying benchmark schools and successful methods they are using that can be adapted to Geneva as well as action plans for intervention and programs aimed at such subgroups as Hispanic, African-American, low socioeconomic status and children with disabilities.The goal is that by June 2015, elementary student scores will be at or above the regional average at all elementary grade levels and all sub-groups will exceed state and federal standards.By mid-2011, the elementary curriculum will be adapted to meet the goal.At the Middle School and High School, efforts will focus on raising the graduation rate to be at or above the regional average for all sub-groups by June 2015. The process to meet that goal will be similar to the literacy improvement at the elementary level.Mutual respect will drive the effort to have dignity and responsibility permeate through student life at the Middle School and the High School. This will involve students, faculty, staff, parents and community members who will work to have student referrals to guidance counselors or administrators for inappropriate behavior decline from 2010 levels by 10 percent in 2012 and 2013.The initiative to lower costs and increase customer satisfaction will reach across all levels of district support services, including Buildings and Grounds, Transportation, School Food Service and Information Technology. Goals include saving money on equipment purchases and repairs, better nutrition and more participation in the school food service dining, improving customer and employee satisfaction with school busing, a plan to maximize cost recovery and enhance revenue and better interaction with employees and the community through information technology.Lastly, the district will increase community support for its mission through improvements in internal communications to employees and external communications to parents and community members.The school district contracted with the Warner School of Education to design the planning process. Leading the project is Dr. Stephen Uebbing, formerly superintendent of the Canandaigua school district and a NYS Superintendent of the Year, who now is with the Warner Center for Professional Development and Education Reform.The planning process began with a Visioning Summit on Oct. 17, 2009, at the Carter Road Complex. At the Visioning Summit, a broad community cross section assembled to talk about the future direction of education in Geneva public schools. Focus group meetings involving 100 people followed.After the Summit were Warner School interviews and data gathering as well as committee and sub-committee meetings developing the plan.Facing challenging economic times that will include less federal aid and increased legacy costs, Dr. Uebbing explained, the plan makes make sure the school district gets the biggest bang for the buck with programs. “We want to develop a clear sense of where we’re going … what we want the district to look like in five years.”Uebbing said the plan is a management tool that will identify programs that should be continued and improved as well as programs that do not fit the mission. Besides analyzing data, the process included gathering what people say the district is as well as what people perceive the district as.Discussing the planning process last year when it first got under way, Dr. Young noted, “In order to build on our successes in recent years, we want to learn more about the attitudes and aspirations of this community, as we shape and mold our direction for the next several years.“The last four school budgets have been approved by the community and have held tax rate increases to under 2 percent. As we go forward, and in uncertain economic times, that may not be sustainable,” Dr. Young explained. “That’s why it is important to develop a community consensus about priorities and our future direction.”With declining enrollment in the schools, the district faces downsizing, but educational reform, which is the goal of the planning process, may yield strategies to maintain the best methods of educating students in tough economic times. Dr. Young added.

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