Grounding District Improvement Efforts in Existing District and Community Strengths
Gibsonburg’s new superintendent and his team of new district leaders are working to build on and extend district strengths. One of these strengths is the close connection between the schools and the community. District teachers and administrators view the community in terms of its assets rather than its deficits. They celebrate the community for its support of school district initiatives and activities, and appreciate parents’ high level of involvement in the schools.
In recent years, the superintendent and building principals have taken steps to expand community outreach efforts. A district leadership team dedicated to community engagement has worked to increase staff members’ involvement with the community. Gibsonburg’s efforts to promote communication with community members include school newsletters, community emails, the district website and Facebook page, and an annual “state of the schools” report and forum. Parents and community members are invited to volunteer their services in the schools and to serve on advisory committees.
Another strength in the district is its positive relationship with the consultants from the State Support Team (SST). SST guidance helped the district establish OIP structures and regroup and refocus its leadership teams. During the district’s recent administrative transition, the SST was particularly helpful. District educators find the professional development provided by the SST, including sessions focused on instructional and behavioral strategies, to be highly useful. The superintendent especially values the responsiveness and personal involvement of the SST consultant.
Additionally, the district’s improvement work benefits from the efforts of several teachers with long tenure in the district. These teachers have used the tools and structures of the Ohio Improvement Process (OIP) to improve instruction in their classrooms. By sharing instructional strategies, engaging in professional development opportunities, and looking critically at their own instruction, teachers have been inspired to make positive changes in their practice and embrace the ethos of collaborative inquiry.
Not all districts work to build on school and community assets, but instead choose to identify and remedy school and district deficiencies.
- What might be the benefits for school improvement efforts of starting with strengths?
- What might be some drawbacks associated with that approach?