Lynn public schools district strategic plan focuses on inclusion, student growth

LYNN — Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler has provided a preliminary look at a multi-year district strategic plan for the city’s public schools.

The plan, shared for the first time at last Thursday’s School Committee meeting, focuses on providing a safe, inclusive learning environment for students and what he sees as an anchor for the district’s work over the next three years.

One of Tutwiler’s four district achievement goals, the plan is meant to replace the last one for the Lynn Public Schools, which expired in 2017. The goal was to engage a diverse group of educators and community stakeholders to develop a plan by May.

What Tutwiler sees as an “anchor” of the plan is the district’s stated core values: inclusiveness, shared responsibility, collaborative relationships, high expectations and inspiring life-long learning.

“These are the beliefs that drive our actions,” Tutwiler said. “No matter the direction, no matter the decision, these are the values that we are committing to be reflected in the direction we take, the decisions we make.”

According to the plan, Lynn Public Schools sees its mission as a commitment to providing a safe, inclusive learning environment that inspires and promotes individual academic and personal growth.

The vision builds upon that by outlining a collaborative commitment of fulfilling the intellectual, physical and social-emotional potential of all Lynn students, so they can learn to thrive after graduation and make an impact in the community and on the world.

A leadership team comprised of principals, directors and assistant directors have worked with an inclusive planning team, consisting of students, teachers, parents, elected officials and community partners, since October to hammer out the document.

“This is a good step forward for what we want to achieve in the Lynn schools,” said School Committee member Brian Castellanos, who serves on the planning team. “I think the vision statement and the mission and our core values that we’re setting up are leading us to have those high expectations and to really have those strategic focuses and smart goals that we need to really move forward and to achieve equity.”

One aspect of the plan that Tutwiler said had “thousands of fingerprints on it” was its theory of action, developed after members of the planning group went out and solicited public feedback.

The theory focuses on inclusion, stating that “if the district becomes more inclusive, then instruction will become more powerful and the social-emotional needs of students will be supported.”

That theory, combined with a focus on creating a school culture where diversity is celebrated, is tied into another one of Tutwiler’s district achievement goals, which is to recruit, professionally develop and retain a more diverse staff.

The Lynn Public Schools teaching staff does not represent the diversity of the district’s student body. Ninety-two percent of teachers are white, while more than 70 percent of students are of color.

The superintendent said he’s put together a working group to develop a strategy to diversify school staff. Once recruited, Tutwiler said retaining those teachers will be dependent upon developing cultures and mindsets around equity and inclusion.

“It’s more about what the district is about and how it’s presenting itself to potential candidates,” Tutwiler said.

Many other similar districts are struggling to diversify their staff. Lynn’s effort aligns with work the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is doing, which has a goal of 25 percent of the state’s teachers being of color. One of the members of Lynn’s working group is part of that statewide effort, according to Tutwiler.

To develop the district strategic plan, administrative officials opted to proceed with the Planning for Success Model, endorsed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and paid for through a Title I grant.

The plan is expected to be completed by the end of May.

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