Now that District 97 has approved its first strategic plan in 20 years, District 200 is looking at whether to launch its own strategic planning effort.

The Dist. 200 Board of Education discussed that possibility this month. The board, during its Aug. 15 instructional committee meeting, discussed Oak Park and River Forest High School’s failure to make AYP (adequate yearly progress) on this year’s Prairie State Achievement Test (PSAE). The school’s preliminary test scores also showed that the gap between black and white students has widened.

Board member Sharon Patchak-Layman urged the board and administration to consider “bigger initiatives” to address the achievement gap that has lingered at the high school since it was publicly identified more than a decade ago.

Layman said the recent test scores should be a “call to action” for the school, board and community.

“I think this a cry and an alarm,” Layman said. “We need to intensify and move off this page that says we have disparity between groups of students at our school-that we’re ready to do something about it.”

Layman also urged broad community involvement in the process.

Dist. 200 Supt. Attila Weninger told members he will unveil in October his plan to address student achievement overall and the gap at the high school. Weninger added that the plan, which is being put together by a new District Leadership Team, will address what the school will do in both the long- and short-term. He said what Layman was proposing was a much larger conversation for the school to have.

Valerie Fisher, currently the longest serving board member, estimated that the last strategic planning process for the district occurred sometime in the 1990s.

Dietra Millard, board member and instructional committee chair, suggested having a board discussion on strategic planning after October.

“I would hate for us to drag on the short-term by trying to say, ‘Oh let’s put this big long-term plan in process,'” she said. “This is going to take us many months to really get motivated and moving.”

Fisher also doesn’t want to see any short-term planning derailed, but said a strategic planning discussion would be useful.

Members generally agreed any strategic plan would include more than just student achievement, such as looking at the district’s finances.

Board member Ralph Lee added that the board could create a strategic planning process that would distinguish between long-term and short-range planning.

“It seems to me that it would be to our advantage to establish an ongoing strategic planning process that doesn’t have an end, that determines the means by which we’ll have community input on an ongoing basis, and which is planned in such a way that is not so burdensome where all your time is used up in the process that you don’t accomplish anything.”


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