Emerging from an intensive spate of lengthy meetings this summer involving Falls Church Public Schools’ central office administrators, school principals, assistant principals and teachers, the system’s latest Triennial Plan was floated at a public meeting this Tuesday prior to being presented to the annual “Back to School” general assembly next Tuesday. After school officially starts on Sept. 5, a final vote for adoption by the Falls Church School Board will take place at its next meeting on Sept. 12.
The one-pager identified five priorities for the school system over the next three years, and was augmented by a detailed 16-page work plan identifying action steps, current ratings of performance, evidence of current effectiveness, and per an ideal state, who’s responsible for each action step to go with initiation and completion dates.
It is the first such plan under the new regime of Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan, who was present at the Henderson Middle School cafetorium Tuesday to present the package.
The five areas of prioritization identified in the new plan are 1. student centered teaching and learning, 2. Excellent staff, 3. Optimal facilities and learning environments, 4. Fiscal management and 5. Community engagement.
Its opening mission statement identified the Falls Church Schools as a “student-centered, innovative, and inclusive community of lifelong learners.” It adds, “We strive to guarantee a personalized environment that supports each child’s unique needs, where each student achieves at least one year academic growth annually, and where every graduate is prepared for their next step in life as a responsible, caring and internationally-minded citizen.”
As the only school system in Virginia, and only one of seven in the U.S., to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum for grades K-12, the mission statement concludes, “We aspire to be the premier International Baccalaureate school division. To that end, we will continuously improve as a learning organization” with a focus on the five identified priorities.
Noonan’s presentation was to an unexpectedly small turnout at Tuesday’s meeting, coming in the middle of summer as it was, and he was accompanied by School Board chair Lawrence Webb. F.C. City Council member Phil Duncan was also present.
Noonan said he intends to reference the plan at next Tuesday morning’s “Back to School” event, when the entire system will be there in force to welcome the start of the next school year, which will commence following Labor Day on Sept. 5.
He said limited feedback he’s received to date has been very positive, favoring the document’s emphasis on equality and fairness, organizational strength and longer-term view.
On the commitment to the IB program, the plan calls for going beyond its current funding of annual IB program fees, student assessment fees and professional development for staff to also provide funding for dedicated 11 month Primary Years Program (PYP) and Middle Years Program (MYP) coordinators. It also calls for all recommendations received from the IB leadership to the incorporated into school action plans, and to assure that authorization at each level is maintained every five years. This is referenced in anticipation of the next IB leadership visit to the system in December 2021.
It is in the area of “instructional programming decisions by measuring the performance of all students, including special populations, to ensure all students meet or exceed local, state and federal accountability standards” that a red tag was attached, indicating significant work needs to be done there.
While the report notes that “at risk students are identified at each school and interventions are put in place,” it adds that, “However, school based action plans are not currently in place to monitor growth.”
It suggests for effectiveness that “each school will create an action plan based on student data and measurable outcomes annually,” with “teacher goals tied to the building goals.” This outcome is targeted to be in place by September 2018, Noonan said.
Another “red tagged” category involved the goal of “attracting a diverse staff to reflect the composition of our student body.” It calls for progress in this area by “establishing processes to attract and recruit diverse staff by targeting historically black colleges and universities, hispanic serving institutions of higher education, non-traditional (career switcher) programs.” That process will be initiated by the spring of 2018, according to the report.
The report also calls for greater clarity in budget documents. While the current budget was a report from the financial system, it says, going forward they should be based on “development of budget documents that are comprehensive, clear and provide the background and alignment to division long-term plans to support expenditures.”