David Larson is superintendent of Glenbard THSD 87 in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The basis for this article was the subject of a panel presentation at the 2014 NSBA Conference.

All board members recognize that one of their key functions is to provide stewardship and oversight. One dilemma that they soon discover is that while they are able to provide good oversight and establish measures of success for the operational dimensions of the district, it becomes much more difficult to measure accountability for the organization’s central purpose: ensuring exemplary teaching that results in high levels of student achievement.  

Balancing budgets, ensuring efficient transportation and food service programs and maintaining comprehensive polices can be documented and achieved. But how do you develop a few clear, multi-year, non-negotiable achievement goals for all students? How do you ensure an appropriate organizational plan is developed so that these achievement targets can be reached? How do you ensure that resources and best practices are being implemented to scale in all classrooms? What process is used to hold all employees accountable for achieving these achievement targets?

Glenbard Township High School District 87 was privileged to present its Work Plan Model at the 2014 National School Boards Association annual conference. This work plan is a comprehensive organizational planning process that has helped Glenbard District 87 build coherency and alignment within the district. The work plan highlights the important roles of planning and plan execution and how they are critical to ensuring the strategies and objectives of a district’s strategic plan are implemented and achieved.

A collection of Glenbard District 87 board members and administrators shared their roles in the work plan process. They included Board of Education president Rich Heim, board member Bob Friend, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Jeff Feucht, Glenbard East High School Principal Josh Chambers, and myself.

The session participants, through engaging activities and discussion, learned about the importance of key elements within the work plan process. These include:

Establishing Board Goals – Akey responsibility, in partnership with management, is establishing specific, multi-year achievement attainment goals. In Glenbard District 87, these targets center on ACT composite score, Explore to ACT growth, Advanced Placement participation, district-wide passing rate, and the proportion of students who enroll in a college-ready course sequence. Each building establishes similar goals that will help reach the overall district targets.

Planning and Plan Execution – To achieve these goals, the administrative team devotes significant time during the summer drafting the year’s work plan. This work plan becomes the blueprint for the agreed upon work. The scope of work is divided into specific work areas. A “one-pager” is drafted for each work area that details objectives, tactics and SMART goals. Glenbard District 87 developed seven work areas, including:

• Common Core

• College-ready Course Sequence

• Assessment Literacy

• Response to Intervention

• Minority Student Achievement Work

• Student Engagement

• Instructional Technology

Principal Leadership – The work plan process requires strong principal leadership where buildings have autonomy and flexibility in establishing their building’s customized plan in completing tasks from the one-pager and ultimately reaching district achievement targets. There is a reciprocal partnership between central office and each building in which the elements of support and accountability are important.

Leveraging Performance Reviews – Theboard must ensure that the annual evaluation process becomes a key mechanism for ensuring organizational ownership of the strategic plan. The work area tasks and tactics are correlated with the related standards from the Illinois Performance Standards for School Leaders, which are reflected in the administrative evaluation instrument. Thus, the critical strategic work impacting student achievement does not become voluntary, but an essential expectation for all employees.

Session presenters, whether board members, district office administrator or principal, shared from their role and specific responsibility they fulfilled in the work plan process. As the elements of the work plan process and the individual roles were shared, participants were able to answer the following key questions regarding the strategic planning process within their home districts:

• Does our district have measurable goals that are centered on the “instructional core” (student learning and achievement)?

• What are the key tactics or strategies that our management team is deploying to accomplish the goals(s)?

• Are the tactics/strategies being implemented to scale?

• Does our management team intentionally dedicate time to planning during the summer?

• Do performance reviews reflect accountability in advancing the strategies and tactics that help achieve the district goals?

Along with these reflective questions, useful documents were shared with participants. We hope that the participants appreciated and enjoyed the interactive session. Several attendees told us that they planned to share the work plan model with colleagues back in their home districts.