Question 20 of 20 for 2020 NRBOE Candidates: Strategic Road Map?

Written By: Robert Cox
  1. The board operates under a “strategic road map”. Identify three elements of the strategic road map that you feel the board got right (and why). Identify up to three (if any) elements that you would change or drop altogether (and why)?

Adina Berrios Brooks: I believe the following elements of the strategic road map are particularly important, especially in these COVID-impacted times:

Safe and supportive schools: cultivate safe, nurturing environments that embrace our rich diversity and are conducive to learning and growth. This strategic objective includes an emphasis on Socio-Emotional Learning, Restorative Practices and Cultural Competency. Students cannot thrive as learners or as citizens if they don’t feel safe and seen. These objectives will be even more important when students and teachers return to brick and mortar schools after having experienced possible health or financial challenges related to the COVID pandemic.

Engagement and Outreach: foster an active partnership amongst community, parents, staff and students to live our Mission and achieve our Vision. We will all need to work together to address the challenges that the COVID pandemic has created. A more concerted effort to engage and collect the wisdom of all stakeholders is now more important than ever.

Objective B: Recruiting and hiring. CSDNR will actively attract and recruit candidates from all backgrounds for all open positions. The district should develop a robust recruitment strategy to attract a large pool of diverse educators, for the benefit of all students.

Overall, the Strategic Roadmap provides a solid framework for our District. To achieve the objectives laid out in this document will require a willingness to roll up our sleeves and do the work.

Katie Castellano Minaya: We need to analyze the Strategic Road Map, but also pair the Phase 1 and Phase 2 reports shared by each school. In fact, it would have been more helpful to have this data when the strategic road map began so that we could have actually measured the results of the strategic road map particularly in student learning. I applaud the district for ensuring that we now have SMART goals in place to be able to actually measure our growth in each area of the road map (student learning; safe and supportive schools; superb staff; engagement and outreach; resource management). I also recognize that part of the new budget integrates an equity formula to help increase STEAM access for students (science, technology, engineering, art, math). This is a step in the right direction.

The other elements still are aspirational. We still need to improve access for all groups to rigorous coursework at the high school level; improve primary reading levels; still need to improve the graduation rates for ALL groups. We still need to increase safe and supportive schools by improving Social/Emotional Learning, Restorative Practices, and Cultural Competence, but this will require ongoing and consistent professional development for staff. We need to make connections to covid-impacted education, too. In fact, it would be a useful exercise to go through the strategic road map in each of the new committees our district created for this pandemic response planning in order to add specific supports for remote learning. Remote learning should still adhere to improved student learning, safe and supportive (remote) schools, superb staff, family community and outreach, and resource management (budget, facilities, and technology) adhering to the impacts of covid-19.

Barbara D’Alois: This seems like a wonderful document. I believe that all the core beliefs are spot on. This is what we should have been striving to achieve for all our students and our community all along. This is fundamental. I can’t imagine that any other district’s “roadmap” looks very different. Keep our students safe, teach them with equity, strive for rigorous coursework. Now what? How do we ensure that these values are being put into place with a sense of reality and the ability to measure the metrics. In a sad sense, I believe this map is merely overstating the obvious.

The belief that “schools should be safe, joyous places of learning” should always have been the standard; our #1 priority. This is where I believe we have failed. Although this is listed as a core belief, there is no mention of this in the Vision 2020 outline. We need good leadership and a plan for this, rather than lofty goals and nebulous beliefs.

With regard to student learning, it is critical that we “provide a high quality and challenging education for every child that promotes the intellectual, creative, social, emotional, and physical development of all students”. In order to give students “access to rigorous coursework” we must first address “disparities in reading levels among groups”. Although these are listed as strategic objectives by the district, one is dependent on the other. Pushing students toward a more rigorous plan for high school than they are prepared for, sets them up for failure (or lowering standards). I often say of my students that “I can’t teach them to swim while they are drowning”. Let me repeat, the fundamentals must come first and be solidly in place in order to proceed with the next steps. Just as the children need to be prepared for college, they need to be prepared for high school. Adjusting standards is merely the set up for failure. If students are not ready for the challenges when they get to high school, we have failed in the grade and middle school levels. We can rewrite anything we want, but unless the rest of the world follows suit, the false sense of achievement will not go very far.

Christopher Daniello:Did not answer.

Stephen A. DiDonato: I have heard a great deal about the strategic roadmap, but I am not so sure that it has been functional or practical at all.

It states: “The City School District of New Rochelle, through an active partnership amongst community, parents, staff and students, will provide a high quality and challenging education for every child, in a safe, nurturing environment that embraces our rich diversity and drives our success.”

Yet we have had students killed and injured, large portions of the community feeling isolated and unheard, organized cheating with the APEX scandal, and more.

I could go on, but you get the point. This roadmap is no more than hollow words. Zero substance.

Sharon D. Footes:Student Learning, Engagement and Outreach, Superb Staff, Safe and Supportive School, Excellent Teachers, Resource Management

Matthew T. Hirschman: The strategic road map has many things right on paper. The key is to putting what’s on paper into reality. Safe and supportive schools, student learning, and resource management are three that stand out for me as being important in the success of our students. The road map is stressing elements that seem to overly magnify a set of concerns, while neglecting others. It reads like a politically correct policy that has done more to divide rather than improve.

Michael Leone: I believe that the core beliefs of the strategic road map to be on point. The beliefs look to make sure that everyone involved with the schools, should become a better person because of it. It is inclusive. It understands that the school, its students, its teachers, and its parents/guardians are all part of the equations to “educate the whole child”.

What I feel they got right:

The reserve fund: This is currently at the State-mandated maximum.

The staff: I believe the teachers to be the District’s best assets. Our map allows for the staff to continue to grow and flourish academically to become better teachers and better role models for our children.

Engagement and outreach: It is better than it was, but there is always room for improvement.

What they got wrong:

I believe the Board needs to take the ethnicity out of the equation. We should always strive to hire the best and the brightest to serve our children and our community and this should not be driven by the color of the person’s skin or where they were born. It should be driven by quality of their education and experience only.

Timothy McKnight: Our district and Board have had a tough couple of years. We have weathered some storms and we have a lot to be proud of what we accomplished during these times.

Direction 5-­‐ Resource Management, Objective B Facilities-­‐ We have done a tremendous job improving our facilities from the Bond, making interior and exterior upgrades and improvements, and making necessary investments to make our district the best it could be.

Direction 2-­‐ Safe and Supportive Schools, Objective A-­‐ Social Emotional Learning and Objective B-­‐ Restorative Practices. We have seen a great push for more equity and the increase of emotional intelligence through social emotional learning. Starting under Amy Goodman and now continuing under Dr. Bongo and school administrators we have seen some great strides in this area.

We also have a lot to be concerned about regarding what our Board and District are not completing from our Strategic Roadmap and that would be everything in is Direction 4-­‐Engagement and Outreach. The district and board have not been effective communicators and effective in communication with parents, working with community partners and having positive public relations.

Bonus Question.

Mario A. Scarano:Did not answer.

Julia Taylor: In my profession, I have adhered to a similar document that guides our work but we call it the comprehensive educational plan. I believe that we are emerging in the following areas which have been made clear to the community through communication: have a reserve fund that is at or near the maximum allowed by NYSED; have completed the five-year capital plan outlined in 2016, with learning spaces that incorporate technology appropriate for learning in the 21st century; have made progress in developing the system-wide culture of innovation that will be needed to ensure we continually prepare all students for success in college, career and beyond

The strategic plan was created in 2016 and we have until December 2020 to see if we accomplished the objectives. Some things to consider and keeping in mind that the current pandemic has widened the achievement gap are: have demonstrated evidence of overall improvements in student learning and achievement across a broad spectrum of measurements including, but not limited to, state assessments; have reduced the achievement gap by decreasing disparities in outcomes that are correlated with race, class, disability, native language, or geography; have a pedagogical staff that is ethnically more reflective of the students we serve and knowledgeable of cultural differences and learning styles in our diverse school population

I am not sure that we will meet these measurable objectives during this time and if it will be realistic. In reading and following this map, keeping in mind my experience in this mind, I am not sure the district can provide evidence of meeting these goals by the end of this. year.

Donald Vega: Got Right – Cultural Competency – the school system celebrates our cultural diversity very well. One of the most impressive things about our students is how different they all are and how well they get along together compared to previous generations which were highly segregated in the schools.

Got Right – Facilities – There has been some progress in facilities and space in the past couple of years. For years, there wasn’t even a sensory gym in the entire school system for special needs students. We also have very nice fields, if they actually let the students use them.

Got Right – Technology – The progress with enabling teachers and students with more technology, has been promising. The technology of the overall admin of the school system is where progress needs to be made.

D.Vega: Got Right – Recruiting and Hiring – New Rochelle has some great teachers who are working very hard. The issues with recruitment have been more with leadership positions.

Would Change – Add Innovation and Automation – There should a focus on transforming the system to save costs and find efficiencies.

Would Change – Change Graduation Rate – I would make this an annual report card with goals. Our graduation rates are trending down, and it’s much worse with at-risk students.

Would Change – Change Communication with Parents – This obviously needs a change as it’s rare to find a single parent who thinks the communication is where it should be.

Would Change – Add Accountability – This strategic plan is from 2016. What has happened since then? Who reports on this? Who is held accountable? There is literally a line that says, “The development of benchmark data and annual milestones will enable the objectives to be utilized for accountability and progress monitoring.” Where are these annual reports with benchmarks? Are they available to public? What is the point to set goals if you don’t report on progress specifically?