Farmington schools' strategic plan urges innovationIf the Farmington School District’s first strategic plan was all about getting everybody on the same page, the message of the update approved Monday seems to be that it’s OK to go your own way, at least within reason.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
If the Farmington School District’s first strategic plan was all about getting everybody on the same page, the message of the update approved Monday seems to be that it’s OK to go your own way, at least within reason.
Teams of administrators, teachers and parents have been working on the plan update since March. The resulting document focuses on creating a “culture of innovation,” helping students identify their “inner genius” and providing customized learning that works with each student’s strengths, among other things. Those ideas would not have been possible when the district wrote its first strategic plan, said Barb Duffrin, who has led this planning process first as principal at Boeckman Middle School and later as the district’s director of educational programs.
“Our teaching and learning department was a department of one or two not too long ago,” Duffrin said. “I think that we are in a place where it is definitely doable. Having recent memories of schools not being on the same page and now knowing what it’s like to all be working together, I think that’s something people don’t want to let go of.”
The district’s first strategic worked hard to unite curriculum across the district. This one is much more about inspiring innovation. One of its seven strategies, for example, calls for the creation of a culture where “staff are free to act by using their talents, passions and creativity for the worthy purpose of nourishing each student’s spark.”
There are examples of that happening already. Some teachers have launched what the district has called flipped classrooms, where students watch recorded lectures at home, then do what used to be homework in class, where teachers are available to help. Riverview Elementary School is in its second year offering multi-age classrooms. And the district will start the new school year with iPads in the hands of more than 1,700 students as early-adopting teachers work out the kinks before the devices are handed out to every student in Farmington schools.
“We’re all looking in the same direction, but there are so many paths to where we need to go, and that’s OK,” Duffrin said.
The new plan is filled with ideas that have popped up regularly since superintendent Jay Haugen took over a little more than a year ago. The idea of a finding a student’s spark – that identifying what students are passionate about on an individual basis will help get them excited about learning – is something Haugen brought with him from Mendota Heights. That idea of individualized education is key to the plan to distribute iPads to all students.
The approval of the strategic plan is not the end of the process. The plan itself is nearly 30 pages of action steps that include plans to showcase the work of students and staff in communitywide idea nights, or implement new forms of student assessment that do not rely on standardized tests. Duffrin said individual schools will be expected to put together building-level plans that tie in to the districtwide document.
The plan will likely always be a work in progress on some level, but Duffrin said she is happy to have a final document to guide future plans.
“It will be nice to no longer have the “Draft” across the front,” she said. “It will be good to get going.”