Lombard district's planning process involves employees, residents

Updated 2/21/2019 12:42 PM

To form its new strategic plan, Lombard Elementary District 44 hosted a series of meetings with 44 people holding all manner of roles and considered their voices while shaping four overarching goals for the future.

In other words, administrators -- led by Superintendent Ted Stec -- didn't just talk through the creation of the plan, but listened, resulting in what teachers and residents say is a document with responsive, balanced and well-defined goals.

"I love the direction Ted is taking the district," said Rita Shafer, a Lombard resident with six grandchildren in the district who also substitute teaches after retiring from a 29-year career there as a teacher. "It's more family- and community-oriented, not top down. It's definitely a collaborative effort across the board."

Shafer was one of the members of the Connect 44 team, which worked since September to develop a 5-year direction for the district serving nearly 3,200 children in preschool through eighth grade.

The plan spells out goals in student wellness, family and community engagement, and professional growth, as well as financial stewardship, facilities and technology. The plan emphasizes making connections on a person-to-person level, fostering student social and emotional growth and finding new ways to measure success beyond standardized tests, all under a philosophy of, "we're all in this together."

"They are so balanced. They're really well-defined," Jennifer Buescher, an English language specialist at Park View Elementary, said about the goals. "As a teacher, they are so reflective of our beliefs and what we see on a daily basis with our kids and our families."

The goals -- and a series of initiatives to work toward them -- could gain school board approval after a discussion scheduled for April.

Buescher said she wasn't confident when the planning process began that the Connect 44 team could complete a new plan on schedule. But she said behind-the-scenes work by administrators to listen to everyone -- from maintenance workers to building principals to senior citizens -- helped the document come together.

"This plan allows us to be responsive day in and day out, and our administration really wants us to keep giving them feedback," Buescher said.

Since a draft of the plan was completed, Buescher said Stec and district leaders have been visiting each of the eight schools to inform personnel about what's in store starting next fall.

"He's determined to make the educational experience of our kids the absolute best that it can be," Buescher said about the superintendent, who is in his second year in the role. "It just begins with making those connections and getting to their (students') hearts because great learning doesn't happen if you don't start there."

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