© Amy Burback

District Vision
My Vision for Stillwater Area Public Schools is not defined by a set of personal priorities, but rather by the priorities developed through a broad-based community engagement process that gave voice to a Vision of the District as expressed through its Strategic Plan, The Bridge to Excellence. Once adopted, it has served as a powerful way in which the Board and Administration hears what the community desires from its schools. Adopting and following a strategic plan provides a reliable, consistent set of goals to work towards. It brings into focus what is important, and allows decision-making to be directed toward accomplishing those goals.

Bridge to Excellence
The Bridge to Excellence is a plan that was developed by 230 members of our community through a comprehensive, deliberative, collaborative process. It was approved by the Board in 2013. As a result of the strategic plan, a majority of the voters in the District passed an operating levy in November 2013, and a Bond in May 2015. The Bridge to Excellence expresses the community vision and voice that guides the work of the Board and Administration. As I evaluate the recommendations that are brought to the Board by the Superintendent, the Bridge to Excellence is the measure by which I evaluate if it is in line with the community’s hope for our schools. What makes a Strategic Plan such a necessary and powerful voice for the community is that is reliable. The priorities expressed through a Strategic Plan keep the District moving in the direction of its mission. In moving forward, it is paramount that the Board keep the District Vision as its guide. To do that, we must ensure stability in our leadership, in our finances, and in our learning opportunities. Guided by our District Vision, with stable systems, we will be able to deliver the student achievement results that are required for our students to meet to the challenges in a rapidly changing global economy.

The Bridge to Excellence Initiatives address three areas of impact for our students and their learning.

  • Learning Experiences – Personalizing learning based on students’ strengths, passions, and unique needs.
  • Systems and Supports – Removing barriers that prevent or hinder learning.
  • Learning Environments – Creating spaces that motivate staff and students to be their very best.

I approach my board work by examining recommendations with these areas in mind. There are things we want to do grow our students’’ learning, and there are some things that we will leave behind as we look to meet the measures set by the World’s Best Workforce and our Students Results Policy.

Community Engagement
This has been a topic of serious consideration for our community over the past nine months, and I remain committed to supporting on a comprehensive plan to improve current, as well as support new initiatives. Community engagement is will require proactive efforts. We have adopted and are implementing a comprehensive community engagement plan that will offer all stakeholders opportunities to have their voices heard and be part of a broad community conversation.

Over the past 13 years there have been broad, community based committees and opportunities for the District to engage stakeholder groups for feedback on large systemic issues that have contributed to unstable and volatile conditions.

  • 2003 – Facilities, Land Use and Attendance Area Task Force – one group did recommend one school closure at that time, it was not voted on by the school board.
  • 2011 – Budget Adjustment Advisory Committee, 10 million dollars in budget cuts as a result of the failed levy
  • 2012 – Bridge to Excellence
  • 2012-13 – Cost Centers
  • 2013 – Innovating Small Schools Committee
  • 2014 – Long Range Facilities Planning Committee
  • 2015 – Budget Advisory Committee
  • 2015-16 – Capacity, Barriers, and Solutions Conversations

Looking Ahead

There has been a great deal of conversation surrounding the school closures, and that was a recommendation not taken lightly by the Board for its consideration. After months of deliberation, the majority decision of the Board was to move ahead with the BOLD proposal. I want to express that this was a painful process and decision, and tough questions were asked throughout the process. I do not know anyone for whom this was a first choice, but rather, an attempt to create an organization that aligned its recourses with its priorities.

By staying focused on the priorities of the Bridge to Excellence, and stabilizing our organizational structure, we will be able to:

  • Offer more equitable learning experiences
  • Improve access to support services
  • Offer student-centered middle school experiences
  • Support ninth graders transitioning to high schools
  • Improve access to technology
  • Balance class sizes across the District