In a vision document meant to guide Jeffco Public Schools for the next several years, Superintendent Jason Glass is underscoring the importance of boosting student learning by addressing issues that reach beyond the classroom.
Glass took the top job in the state’s second largest school district this summer. The new vision document, released Wednesday, has a strong focus on equity, improving students’ learning experiences and working with outside groups to help create “a Jeffco where no child suffers from hunger, preventable illness, lack of dental care or lack of mental health supports.”
Though the plan draws on previous district planning documents, it is more specific in parts and carries a strong emphasis on addressing out-of-school issues, a big emphasis of Glass’s since before he assumed the role.
“This was not intended as some jarring change,” Glass said in an interview. “But I think it provides greater clarity.”
The structure of the plan divides the work into learning, conditions for learning and readiness for learning. The first two sections focus on work happening inside schools, while the third section points to “decades of education research which confirms that the biggest indicators of student success are related to out-of-school factors and the student’s environment. ”
Some of the work under the readiness for learning section — such as expanding social and emotional support and parent and community engagement — is not new. But using schools as “community hubs,” and having a section on expanding early childhood education is new compared to the existing Jeffco Vision 2020 authored by former superintendent Dan McMinimee.
The two vision documents share similarities.
Both suggest the use of so-called “multiple pathways” to offer students a variety of ways to learn and reach graduation. But Glass gets more specific, mentioning apprenticeships, internships and partnerships with community colleges to increase early college credit options.
Both documents also mention the need to incorporate technology for student learning and the need to hire and retain high quality educators. Glass goes further by suggesting the district must commit to paying teachers and staff “a fair, livable and reasonable wage.”
Glass’s vision also notes that the district must find a balance between giving schools flexibility and having district-wide direction. Several metro-area districts have been moving for years to give school leaders more autonomy to make decisions, especially through innovation status.
In an interview Tuesday, Glass said that flexibility in Jeffco schools already exists, and that he would allow principals to keep flexibility in hiring and budgeting. But, he said he’ll have to evaluate whether more or less flexibility is better, saying, “both or neither” are possible.
But in keeping with a new value he’s adding in the document for having an entrepreneurial spirit he adds that innovative thinking toward the same district goals, will be encouraged.
“So long as there is a north star we’re all looking toward,” Glass said.
The former vision document included a strategic plan that laid out a rubric with goals, such as having all students completing algebra by the end of ninth grade by 2017. Other metrics were not as detailed, only pointing to certain reports, like attendance or discipline reports, to look for progress.
The Jeffco district will contract with a consultant, Deliver-Ed, that will evaluate the district’s ability to execute the new vision plan.
The group is then expected to provide some recommendations and help the district create a more detailed strategic plan with clear performance metrics and ideas for how the budget will affect the district’s work. Glass said he expects the detailed action plan to be completed by March or April.
Asked whether the plan is also meant to lay out the need for more local funding through a future ballot measure, Glass said that work is separate. He said the work laid out in the vision plan will happen regardless of more or less funding.
“We’re going to take whatever resources we have, at whatever level, and we’re going to execute what’s in this plan,” Glass said.
Glass has toured the district holding public meetings to gather input for the document. Now that it is created, the components of the vision plan must still be vetted by the community, Glass said.
It will start with Glass hosting a Facebook live event at 11 a.m. to discuss the vision document.