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posted: 12/18/2013 5:30 AM

Dist. 203 already moving toward Future Focus goals

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Naperville school officials are moving quickly to implement some of the 27 suggestions they received this week from participants in the Future Focus community engagement process.

Superintendent Dan Bridges said several initiatives to improve Naperville Unit District 203 already are in the works.

"We're a little impatient," Bridges said as the school board heard a report wrapping up input from a series of community forums that began in March. "There are some things we just couldn't wait to get going with."

Future Focus sessions covered student success, programs of study, finances, facilities and community engagement. The sessions, which sought feedback from 447 community members, resulted in recommendations to improve academic and social/emotional supports, increase academic rigor, enrich parent involvement, enhance language learning and ensure appropriate use of instructional technology, among other aims.

A report presented by Kathy Ruiz and Mark Trembacki, community members Bridges appointed to lead the Future Focus facilitating team, listed eight ways the district already has begun to address the community's suggestions.

The initiatives include creation of a diversity awareness council and a citizens finance advisory committee, work on the beginning stages of a facility master plan, a review of social/emotional services available at each school, a review of elementary report cards and programs of study, work to align the curriculum to Common Core standards and development of a communications plan.

Future Focus participants told the district they want the definition of student success to include more than good scores on standardized tests and admission to top colleges. Community members said students' social/emotional health also should be prioritized, and Bridges said an inventory of the social/emotional supports available at each school has begun.

Bridges also said the community has asked for an increased focus on diversity, as school report card data shows the district now has 32.5 percent nonwhite students, up from 18.2 percent about 10 years ago in 2001-02.

The school board approved a strengthened diversity action plan this summer, and Jennifer Hester, chief academic officer, updated board members Monday night on progress under the plan. Hester said the district is nearing completion of a review of hiring practices to ensure diverse job candidates are being sought and providing teachers with books about how to instruct students in culturally responsive ways.

The district also is preparing for full implementation of the Common Core standards next year, a change that will affect curriculum and elementary report cards.

"We're in the very early stages of beginning to review and revise and look at our elementary school report card," Bridges said. "We know some parts of it will have to change as early as next year to incorporate the Common Core."

Administrators will continue work on reviews of report cards, programs and services as they work to turn the 27 Future Focus recommendations into what Bridges called a "strategic blueprint" for short- and long-term actions.

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