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posted: 12/17/2013 5:30 AM

Dist. 203 plotting guidelines for future success

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Naperville Unit District 203 has been focusing on its future for the past nine months, and on Monday night, board members heard the findings of a series of community engagement sessions that will help plan for that future.

The series of meetings, called Future Focus, concluded last month after reviewing topics such as student success, programs of study, finances, facilities and community engagement.

Future Focus leaders presented 27 recommendations to the board Monday night, and Superintendent Dan Bridges said now administrators will develop these recommendations into a "strategic blueprint" for short- and long-term actions.

Bridges said the actions will look to strengthen the high-performing district as the transition to Common Core standards concludes and the role of technology in learning continues to expand.

"We're excited as an administration and a school district to begin to address some of the issues and the recommendations that were brought forward by our community," Bridges said Monday night.

A report presented by Kathy Ruiz and Mark Trembacki, community co-chairmen of Future Focus, listed the recommendations, brought forward to improve academic and social/emotional supports, increase academic rigor, enrich parent involvement, enhance language learning and ensure appropriate use of instructional technology. Ruiz and Trembacki praised the process and its proactive approach to seeking ways the district can continue to grow.

"It was a phenomenal, insightful way to engage the community," Trembacki said about Future Focus, which drew input from 447 participants. "This was undertaken without a hot topic driving the initiative."

Board President Jackie Romberg said the board "happily accepts" the Future Focus report, and member Kristin Fitzgerald said the process helped engage and inform all who participated.

"I went to all but one of these forums, and I found them so helpful and informative, not just the information that was presented but hearing the feedback from the community," Fitzgerald said. "It was the right time to strengthen the trust and to work on the communication process."

Recommendations included under the heading of student success include developing ways to report student progress and college/career readiness in addition to standard letter grades and updating elementary report cards to align with new curricula and standards.

Under programs of study, recommendations suggest analyzing offerings in language learning and STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, as well as recommending options for expanded online learning.

Future Focus participants recommended the district publish annual five-year financial forecasts and continue to be fiscally responsible.

Under facilities, recommendations focus on the need to develop a facility master plan.

And community engagement recommendations include delivering a state of the district address, publishing a report to the community and developing an ongoing communication strategy.

Bridges said he kicked off the Future Focus sessions after being named superintendent because he saw a need for more two-way communication between stakeholders and district decision-makers and wanted a better understanding of the values and priorities of the community.

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