District 203 aims to refine its longterm vision using ‘Future Focus’ community input
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org March 8, 2013 12:04PM
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More information about the Future Focus 203 community engagement project can be found here:
Updated: April 11, 2013 6:18AM
Growing pains are an expected side effect of rapid expansion and the change it demands, but officials in Naperville School District 203 want to keep the discomfort at a minimum.
With support from a broad swath of community volunteers, the district this week will launch a new effort to examine and discuss issues relevant to its long-term vision.
Before a picture can be painted of the school system down the road, the group will need a comprehensive view of where it is today. Participants in the Future Focus 203 conversations will gather in the coming week for kickoff events, scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday, that will provide a glimpse of the district’s current state and an overview of the path they will take together over the following three months of inquiry and discussion.
Dubbed “community engagement,” the initiative is designed to draw in as much input from as many sources as possible. Through a series of four morning and evening weekday gatherings, the teams will formulate ideas leading to a sharper view of what lies ahead for the district. After a summer hiatus, a final wrap-up session is planned in mid-September at Naperville Central High School.
“As the engagement meetings progress, the Facilitating Team will focus their attention on listening to the input of participants and evaluating the process to continually improve each session,” reads an announcement outlining the campaign. “Feedback gathered from each meeting will be compiled, summarized, and used as a guide for determining the content of subsequent meetings.”
The project coincides with a period of significant change on the school system’s 22 campuses. Mark Trembacki, co-chairman of the undertaking, noted that the district has a new superintendent, Dan Bridges, and its student population is shifting in ways that continually call for reassessing the use of instructional spaces. State funding uncertainties and a steadily diversifying community also contribute to the need for a fresh look down the road. Trembacki said community input will help sharpen that vision.
“Certainly we can see that things continue to evolve,” he said. “I think it’s a really important time to step back and see where we are, and make sure that we’ve got a road map for the next five to 10 years.”
Changes already inked onto the district’s calendar will factor into the conversation.
“All-day kindergarten is a big move for the district,” said co-chairwoman Kathy Ruiz.
The district plans to initiate a full day of instruction for its youngest students in the 2013-14 school year at Beebe, Ellsworth, Elmwood, Mill, Naper, River Woods and Scott elementary schools. The remaining schools are pegged for full day kindergarten the following year.
“I think one of the questions will be how they’ll do that. Will it involve construction? Will they need to redistrict?” Ruiz said.
She also anticipates that Future Focus 203 will look at the upcoming mandated implementation of Common Core standards, designed to establish a level playing field for students nationwide, that are expected to raise the bar for determination of academic success.
“They were saying a lot of people might not know what the Common Core is, especially if their kids are new to the district,” Ruiz said.
The “State of the District” launch of the Future Focus 203 project is scheduled at two separate times this week: 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Fellowship Hall at Grace United Methodist Church, 300 E. Gartner Road; and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in the cafeteria at Naperville Central High School, 440 W. Aurora Ave.