River Forest’s District 90 is about halfway through developing its strategic plan for 2020-25, a guide to direct the district’s focus for the next five years. The committee intends to have a rough draft available for review in March, and the final plan is slated to be presented to the Board of Education by May.

In the previous plan, 2015-20, flexibility was a key feature. Dawne Simmons, communications and community outreach coordinator for the district, says the same flexibility will be built into the plan that will take the district to 2025.

“There has to be room to change the plan to accommodate for advances and developments that arise,” said Simmons, pointing out that all students have Apple iPads now, though that wasn’t something the planning committee could have anticipated as a need or possibility when they wrote the previous plan in 2015.

The current Strategic Plan Committee began meeting in November. The committee, said Simmons, represents as many stakeholders as possible, including parents, faculty, staff, union members, and residents without children, as well as high school freshmen who recently graduated from the district. They invited community partners such as the YMCA, River Forest Community Center, and the public library to provide input. Juan Alegria from the National Equity Project is also a team member.

“We wanted it to be as welcoming, encompassing and inclusive as possible,” said Simmons. “The goal was to have as many different perspectives as we could fit into the room.”

The Consortium for Educational Change (CEC), a nonprofit that acts as a facilitator for strategic planning, is working with the district through the process. This is the second time the CEC has worked with D90 on their strategic plan.

The strategic planning process began on Nov. 12, when the committee met and discussed their roles and responsibilities. They also reviewed how the process will proceed.

On Dec. 5, the committee held its first all-day meeting, listening to reports and reviewing district performance data to determine what’s going well in D90 and where there is room for improvement. The team offered their own perceptions of strengths and opportunities, compared them to measurable data, and came up with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to drive plans and strategies.

Their draft SWOT analysis identified a number of strengths, most centering on high student achievement, dedicated and talented faculty and staff, and strong leadership. Weaknesses identified were achievement disparities and gaps among student subgroups; inequities among all students, classrooms and schools; and the need for support for increased social, emotional, and health needs of student and staff. Another weakness discussed was the problem of aging facilities that impacted the learning environment.

On Dec. 11, parents and community members were invited to review the SWOT analysis. Feedback generated additional weaknesses and opportunities for the lists. Participants felt there was a disconnect between D90 and District 200 (Oak Park and River Forest High School). Also mentioned was an overall lack of family support programs in D90. An additional opportunity was improving family supports to enhance equity and inclusion for single-parent and working families. 

On Jan. 16, the committee attended a strategic planning vision retreat where team members looked at the current mission and vision statements measured against criteria for a good mission and vision statement, and asked themselves if the statements used now best represent the goals and dreams of the district. They also took time to draft a statement of core values.

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