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School board works on strategic plan

NEW ULM — The District 88 school board and administration met for the second of two work sessions Thursday to develop a strategic action plan for the next three years.

Last month, the board and administrators began with a review of the current strategic plan. The three goals of this plan are: increasing student achievement 3% each year as measured by Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) data; personalized learning for all; and building upon the confidence and support of the community.

The board and administrators also reviewed survey information from district employees and community members. The survey asked to list the areas the district is doing well and areas that needed improvement.

Employees and community members agreed the student support days were working well. These days enable students to receive additional support from teachers.

Under improvements, the board and administrators wanted to see greater support for student social and mental health. Building interest in the fine arts was another area to improve. With greater technology integration, the need to update technology and focus learning was a priority.

The board and administration began the second strategic action study session with a reviewed information and videos the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) submitted on equity education. The MSBA views this as a priority for all school boards.

A video from MSBA emphasized the difference between equality and equity. Equality was about keeping things the same and equity was about keeping things fair. In terms of schooling, equity education would be providing each student with what they need, not just giving each student the same education.

Bertrang said there was a lot to the equity in the education conversation. The board and administrators broke out into small groups to discuss how this would look in the New Ulm school district. Adaptability and responsiveness were key takeaways. The board wanted the school to beware of barriers and provide the necessary outreach to struggling students.

The study session broke into small groups also to develop visioning statements for the district. The board later took feedback from the small groups to create a rough framework for the next strategic plan.

The board and administration draft statement for the next strategic plan is: “Empowering our learning community through equitable engaging and innovative programming to achieve their full potential.”

Key priorities the district wanted to focus on over the next three years were: a focus on personalized learning, future-readiness, community engagement, equitable education for all, and raising student achievement.

Several of the goals and priorities identified by the groups were part of the current strategic plan. Bertrang said just because a school reaches the end of a three-year plan did not mean past goals were abandoned. Multiple school districts had struggled in reaching goals due to the COVID pandemic.

MCA data was not collected in 2020, making it difficult to measure student academic achievement over the last three years.

Board member Denny Waloch said some achievement had been made on the personalized learning as it was implemented.

High School Principal Mark Bergmann argued the school only scratched the surface on personalized learning. Bergmann agreed raising student achievement should remain a goal, but was uncertain it should be 3% every year.

Waloch also wanted to continue raising the confidence and support of the community; especially with a potential levy this year. The pandemic had left the school empty for several months last year and some falsely believe the school saved money. Waloch wanted to educate the public about what the district did achieve.

The feedback provided by the board and administrators will comply with a set of goals that will be brought back for final approval at the next regular school board meeting.

The next regular board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 27, in the District Boardroom, 414 S. Payne St.

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