SPARTA, NJ – Looking for community input as to what the future of the district should be, the Sparta school district hosted their second Strategic Planning Meetings on September 20 at the Sparta High School media center.

The program followed the same format as the first strategic planning meetings held five years ago.  New Jersey School Boards Field Service Representative Kathy Hellawa served as moderator for the approximate 35 attendees. 

Participants included parents, staff, administrators as well as community members without children in the schools.  Attendance was significantly less than the first round of 2014 where there were more than 100 participants.

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Superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi gave a state of the school address which began with a slide show.  He presented the district’s Core Values. 

“We spent last semester working on them,” Rossi said.  “They are an outgrowth of many meetings and discussions” [with district staff].  He referred to the Core Values as the “lighthouse of what’s most important to the district.”

Rossi concluded his remarks suggesting “action plan areas” that he developed with “consultation of the leadership team,” even though the process of inviting the community is intended to get the community’s input on what the goals should be.

Hellawa and Matt Lee outlined the process and expectations for the participants, explaining it is “straightforward and fun activities tonight.”

The participants broke out to small groups based on the color of their name badges. In the small groups the participants created lists of strengths and challenges/opportunities.  A spokes person from each group reported out to the whole group.

Often the groups lists overlapped and some were seen as both strengths and challenges*.  Strengths included:

  • Easy communication with building principals, responsive and attentive
  • Sense of community, Spartan pride
  • Great course offerings at the high school, wide variety for all students intersest
  • Appropriate class size
  • Parental involvement; parents want to volunteer
  • Quality teaching staff
  • Chromebooks*
  • Security
  • District is financially stable
  • Music and arts programs, electives
  • Vide variety of co-curriculars, activities and sports*
  • Late bus
  • Differential instruction
  • STAR not MAP assessments
  • 30-30 lunch and recess time at elementary schools
  • 7th grade STEM, 6th grade exposure to all world languages, robotics
  • Perception of Sparta as highly rated by colleges
  • Facilities* High school and middle school
  • Early intervention

Challenges included:

  • Facilities at elementary schools, air conditioning at elementary schools
  • Chromebooks especially for younger students, balance of technology and traditional teaching, digital citizenship
  • Transportation, length of bus rides and need for aids
  • Need more connections to colleges, duel enrollment and college credit for high school classes
  • Shared services for fields and facilities, partner with the town and community members
  • All fields not just turf
  • Teachers shared between schools
  • Missing the informal superintendent and principal forums
  • Experiential learning, lower barriers to field trips, outdoor classroom
  • Alignment of elementary schools, number of transitions
  • Balance security versus community feeling welcomed
  • Mental health of student K-12
  • Co-curriculars at middle school all on same day
  • Vertical articulation
  • Promote academic achievement district wide as much as sports achievement

All of the groups’ lists are available on the district web site.

The next session is scheduled for October 18 at 7 p.m. in the same location. The goal for the next meeting is to “create an ideal vision for the district five years from now,” according to Hellawa.   It is not necessary to attend all three sessions, Rossi reminded the audience, asking them to return in October and “bring a friend.”

 

2014 Strategic Planning: community developed four goals:

Goal 1 Student Achievement; focused on improving student achievement by providing resources to the school community.

Goal 2 Community and communication: improve community communications with all stakeholders including students, parents, staff, community members, colleges and businesses to better support our schools to generate continued participation and maximize student success.

Goal 3 Student Skills for the 21 Century; provide our students with multiple opportunities to develop a foundation of communication, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration and apply these skills.

Goal 4 Culture and Climate including upgraded facilities and technology; Create a district-wide climate of learning that encourages individuals and sustains physiological, emotional and academic need while promoting a safe and tolerant educational community

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