Superintendent: Lynn Public Schools district strategic plan will shape work for the next five years

LYNN — Shaping the work in the Lynn Public Schools over the next five years is a comprehensive district strategic plan, focused on developing an inclusive learning environment that allows each student to meet their full potential. 

“This is a very ambitious plan, but frankly our students and families deserve that,” said Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler. “It is a really powerful reflection of collaborative work. I think it reflects really progressive thinking and (options) around where this district can go.” 

Paid for by Title I grant, the district plan was a six-month collaborative effort of community stakeholders and educators. One of Tutwiler’s four district improvement goals for the 2018-19 school year, it was developed based on the Planning for Success Model, endorsed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The district’s last plan expired in 2017. 

The two-page document outlines how the district views itself, in its mission statement and core values; where it wants to go, noted in its vision statement and strategic objectives; and how it plans to get there, which is broken down into strategic initiatives, or plans for how school administrators and officials intend to meet those four objectives. 

Anchoring the plan, Tutwiler said, are its core values: inclusiveness, shared responsibility, collaborative relationships, high expectations, and inspiring lifelong learning. The five values are presented in a circle to denote that all are equally important to the district, he said. 

“What I love about having core values is that it provides for me, personally, an anchor for these decisions,” Tutwiler said. “A box has been built and the decisions I think need to happen will be in that box. The walls are these core values … (and) I should not be making decisions outside these core values.” 

Each core value is reflected in the document’s vision statement, where the district “commits itself to fulfilling the intellectual, physical and social-emotional potential” of all of its students so they can thrive and make an impact in their communities and beyond. 

“I just feel like this is such a powerful statement,” said Tutwiler. “This vision really resonates with me personally, but I also believe it’s a fitting vision of where the district is headed and how we need to work (to get there). It’s student-facing, but it is more a reflection of our commitment to meeting their needs and how we intend to do so.” 

Although Tutwiler believes the core values are the “anchor” of the plan, the real meat of the document lies in its four strategic objectives and strategic initiatives for how each can be implemented over the next five years. 

The district’s four objectives are: providing engaging, relevant and rigorous learning experiences that support each student and educator in reaching their fullest potential; strengthening an environment and school culture that honors and celebrates diversity and responds effectively to the social-emotional experiences of every student and family; maintaining up-to-date, secure, safe, and equitable facilities that are conducive to active learning; and strengthening family and community partnerships to support and enhance student learning and well-being. 

Each objective is followed by four to six strategies. 

For instance, the first one includes several initiatives focused on diversity, such as recruiting, supporting and retaining a diverse staff — nearly 85 percent of the district’s student body is non-white, but its staff is 87 percent white — and providing instruction and interventions that respond to the diverse learning styles of all students.

Tutwiler said much of the plan is focused on improving equity in education, which is not the same as equality. The same instructional strategy won’t work for different types of students, which is especially evident with how to approach English Language Learners (ELLs) and native English speakers, and special education students vs. their regular education counterparts, he said.

In Lynn, ELLs have a graduation rate of less than 50 percent, while the overall graduation rate is 73 percent. ELLs and students with disabilities are the district’s two lowest performing subgroups. 

“Some kids require something different,” Tutwiler said. “It’s being deeply attuned to that, that results in different outcomes for students so everyone is getting what they need. It’s about building a stronger lens around that.” 

One initiative that he called a “game-changer” is focused on developing a three-year technology plan, which falls under the objective of having facilities “conducive to learning.” 

There’s already lots of technology in the district, he said, but the plan would focus on how to best utilize it to improve learning and instruction. That could mean more professional development for teachers, more tech-support, more Internet bandwidth or the inclusion of on-site coaching for educators. 

Other initiatives he noted are developing a plan to address overcrowding in the district’s schools — one for its high schools will be presented to the School Committee next Thursday — and professional development focused on trauma sensitive practices and cultural proficiency. 

Implementing the plan will be hard work, said Tutwiler, who anticipates struggles with time, capacity and burnout.

“The key is to not let the challenges deter you,” he said. “Nothing worth having is easily achieved.”

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