- Community Conversations
“Everything WE do is designed to provide a future-ready, student-centered learning experience for every single child.” This mission statement, combined with the four pillars of the plan, is at the center of every decision made in the district. The pillars state:
- WE are Personalized;
- WE are Future Ready;
- WE are Fiscally Responsible; and
- WE are In This Together.
Feedback from stakeholders is crucial as the Board and district leaders look to update the action items associated with each pillar. These community conversations are the first step.
“It’s been a nice representation of all of us who need to be invested: parents, staff (and) community members,” School Board President Lynda O’Connor told the attendees at the Feb. 23 meeting. She also expressed her gratitude for Lakota’s staff at their meeting on Feb. 22. “We are so thankful for all of you and the work you do for our students. We are thankful for all the work that goes on behind the scenes.”
Following is a summary of the thoughts shared at both meetings.
Jeff Stec, executive director at Citizens for Civic Renewal and the facilitator for these meetings, began both sessions by asking attendees to share successes of the strategic plan.
WE are Personalized
- Implementation of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS).
- We’ve seen more consistency across the district with how services are delivered.
- We’re able to start services earlier, when school begins, instead of having to wait until October.
- Interventions at the high schools level are unique and there’s now intentional support built into the day through NEXUS bell.
- High Schools are able to target what support a student needs.
- The NEXUS option also allows honors and advanced placement students the opportunity to take an extra elective class.
- Opportunities have vastly improved over the past 6-7 years, but the personalization is also there, allowing students to do a deep dive into what interests them.
- The personalized touch has made a very large district feel small.
- Personalization is so valuable and important because it opens the staff to consider what the student needs and we can go further and explore those needs.
- Staff feel empowered to be trained in other things and to expand their learning through professional development.
- Teachers are so passionate - they love teaching and love the kids.
- Lakota has choices to fit the child’s needs.
- Teachers challenge students’ ability to step up to their potential.
- Personalization is always the staff. They are the nuts & bolts of the operation.
- Personalization leads to relationship building with students and with families. You have to have relationships with family to collaborate and meet the needs of the students.
- There are so many opportunities and options to choose from.
- There is personalization through Butler Tech offerings.
WE are Future Ready
- The alternative pathways are providing more opportunities for high school students.
- We’re able to work with high school students on their grad plans.
- Technology has evened the playing field for readers.
- Technology has given teachers the ability to personalize teaching.
- Students can see that the world can come into the classroom through the use of technology - there’s a global connectedness that wasn’t there before.
- More opportunities are being provided, meaning there’s not just a focus on going to college after high school.
- The real world learning component has been a game changer at the high schools.
- The world isn’t the same as it was 15 years ago and our business partners know that. We need to prepare our students for jobs that don’t even exist right now.
- There are a variety of offerings. I have seen parents leave to try private but then come back to Lakota and public because of how much is offered.
- Most people see and don’t have negative things to say about cyber & future ready
- The district was prepared for COVID.
- Yes it was hard on staff, especially at the elementary level, but there were already applications available like Canvas and 1:1 at secondary schools.
- Because of the personalization and opportunities cyber students have had, they talk with confidence, excitement, passion - you would think they were seniors in college.
- Safe environment for students to explore options.
- Improved structures and systems - they provide options for students.
WE are Fiscally Responsible
- What’s reported out and what’s felt by taxpayers isn’t as much of a burden.
- The extensive reservoir.
WE are In This Together
- Parents are sharing successes, kids are sharing successes - this is the impact of personalization to not only give students what they need, but also what they want.
- This could be a student achieving a college degree or a younger child setting their alarm clock to get to school on time. They’re both successes.
- Everything from building self-calming techniques for students feeling stressed to communicating with adults
- Coming from a small town and a small school, I was concerned about the size of Lakota. Principals at the elementary school and junior high know me and know my kids.
- Students and parents are being given the information to help navigate.
- It feels smaller than it is - we have been able to find the small pockets - this includes finding the relationships with staff.
- I had concerns about my child’s achievement in one area and scheduled a conference with the teacher. Instead, the whole team of teachers showed up to brainstorm ways to help my student.
- There are increased mental health services and stigmatizing mental health needs has lessened since COVID.
- Students need to see adults who are firm but fair outside of the family unit. Lakota offers so many groups to join.
- There has been increased community engagement.
Stec then asked attendees to share challenges that district leaders should consider when updating the strategic plan.
WE are Personalized
- Keep balance: staff are excited about new ideas, but let’s not forget about the things that are working.
- Administrators can offer tools to use, but let the teachers pick and choose how to implement them.
- Keep the focus on evidence-based work and then how to deliver it in a personalized way.
- Our design for learning needs to be good for all students.
- How can we re-imagine the master schedule at the high school?
- Sometimes it’s hard to innovate when you are confined to the high school master schedule.
- A team of teachers at Liberty Junior School work together so students may have social studies longer one day if needed, for example. How can this be duplicated at other schools?
- What is the definition of personalization? Is it technology?
- Bring in all the right players when decisions are made - if the decision is about a student, make sure all the right people are at the table.
- We need opportunities for the arts, clubs, etc. earlier for younger students.
- From a staff perspective: it’s a challenge to meet the child who’s “in the middle.” What are they interested in? How do we light that spark for them? What experiences are we providing for them?
- Trauma informed care is crucial.
WE are Future Ready
- Need more capacity for teachers to have opportunities to innovate.
- Passport program where teachers can visit classrooms in other schools throughout the district to get ideas, then work with their innovation specialists to build out plans to implement them for their students.
- We should not lose sight of the value of our innovation specialists. They are invaluable to the district and all that we do.
- Need appropriate facilities.
Parent/Community Staff Conversation
- New facilities - building culture when new facilities are being created, schools being merged.
- Yes, math, reading etc. are important, but so is making sure the soft skills are learned; they’re the most difficult to teach.
WE are Fiscally Responsible
- Cybersecurity gives our kids lots of opportunities over other schools; how do we make sure that we continue to provide future opportunities like this? There’s always an investment needed to start programs, competitive wages - how are we intentional about spending so we can still be on the cutting edge?
- We have to get around the idea that if we want more opportunities, it’s going to come with a price.
WE are In This Together
- Comments on report cards can’t be comments from 20 years ago. How can we make them more personalized? How can we make sure the parents actually see the report cards now that we don’t send them home?
- We need a parent academy to teach Canvas, tech tools, how school works.
- Need consistent communication - teachers often feel blindsided by announcements.
- Sometimes one side of the district finds out before the other.
- Focus on what really matters: student achievement, mental health for staff and students.
- Mental health is taking over - we provide the support, but the need is so great.
- Need to broaden what the definition of mental health is - it includes “do I belong here?” and “Am I welcome here?”
- Lakota is technically a suburban district, but some schools have sidewalks & a “city feel” compared to others that are more rural-feeling.
- When changing schools/grade bands, there are concerns surrounding students with disabilities and how they will adapt. How can we help not only students, but also parents, adjust so parents don’t feel like they have to go into battle every time.
- Parents suggested cross-building professional development so teachers can compare how they do things, get suggestions/ideas.
- Handling stress/learning to control emotions and interact with others.
- How do you help ensure that students have a solid foundation - even starting with making sure they have breakfast.
- WE are In This Together - how can we keep this in mind at the community level?
- How are we providing support for our teachers, staff and administrators so they can continue to focus on the whole child? They have 25 or more kids, plus parents, plus staff, plus administrators, etc.
- Mental health of staff and what is sparking their interest? How can we help “fill their cup”?
- Teachers are leaving the profession. How can we continue to provide new opportunities to our kids if we don’t have enough teachers?
- Finding ways to continue to engage community members.
- Zoom during lunch? Other times?
- How are we reaching the “hard to reach” community members?
- How do we reach non-English speaking? Translators at meetings, including American sign language.
- Babysitter option at events?
- When there are big school events, how can the building or district utilize these as information sharing opportunities?
Final thoughts were shared by board members and Interim Superintendent Robb Vogelmann.
Board member Kelley Casper said, “I think for me, the most important thing to take away is not to rest on our laurels. Each child is important.”
Julie Shaffer echoed Casper’s remarks noting that the Board and district leaders need to look at “personalization and how that needs to be built in with a future lens.”
“I think internships are really important,” said board member Darbi Boddy. “Teaching the soft skills is very important.”
Vogelmann reflected on balancing the current and future educational needs of Lakota’s 17,500 students. “Present ready versus future ready,” he began. “When is the right time to make those moves and what does future ready look like in 5-10 years compared to present ready.”
- Community Conversations