Steller Strategic Planning Meeting Notes 10 28 08

by Admin on November 12th, 2008
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In attendance: Joe Banta, Robin Wohlforth, Gary Steele, Rebecca Burns, Charles Wohlforth, Barbara Wohlforth, Harlod Greene

We met at 5 p.m. to go over the value statements developed at the Oct 1 all community meeting. Charles had compiled the notes from the meeting, gathering the value statements from the five groups by their commonalities, which produced 11 value commonalities and several more statements that had been made by only one group each. (That document is attached at the end.) He began a discussion on the validity of these groupings, which quickly became a deep and broad-ranging philosophical discussion about Steller.

We first took on the value of academics and doing challenging intellectual work. The group felt this should be broken into two values: one about seriousness and purpose (covering all work, not just academics), and the other about intellectual development/work.

Harlod said that, as the new principal, he is not seeing the self-motivation among students that are emphasized in our values. Many students are not serious about self-actualizing their education, but in fact goof off and use Steller terminology as a cover for being lazy. Steller needs to succinctly state concrete expectations for students at Steller. He said people are coming here because it is small and they believe “You don’t have to do anything.”

Barbara pointed out that students currently are evaluated only on academic grades, not on their progress toward becoming self-directed learners. The plan the community developed last year was intended to address this by having advisors give students feedback on this aspect of their growth at conferences, to happen at least twice a year. Others pointed out that this idea had not been implemented.

Charles and Rebecca said if the school could develop students’ enthusiasm for learning, that should address the problem of lack of self-motivation and seriousness. Several others felt, however, that this ideal is not being realized.

Gary made a similar point about personalization. He said it should not mean students study only what they most want to work on: our program should also push them to learn new things and broaden their horizons. The value list should acknowledge the creative tension between different aspects of the school.

Robin said our values can be balanced even if they seem contradictory, but the balance will be delicate and will be different for everyone. Kids who skip classes could still be learning, and no one should be removed from Steller for “not being good enough,” because that violates our value of accepting individual differences. Robin observed that we are talking about a ‘best fit’ line; given our differences, no single point may lie exactly on that line.

Charles said it is critical to remember that our fundamental goal is to develop minds, helping students become critical thinkers, creative, and adaptive to a broad range of challenges; content should always be secondary to that goal. Harlod and others said we have to teach state-mandated content, but we can use it as a means to meet our primary goal.

Gary urged everyone to look at Shannon’s website for a discussion of John Dewey and essentialism.

Harold said that in order to meet the needs of the community, the goal of the school may need to change. Steller may not be able to be an ideal school anymore. For example, he pointed out that Steller has a significant population of autistic kids, higher by percentage than East or West. The program may work for some students because of its small size and accepting student body, but those same students may not be capable of strongly self-directed education.

Joe said the autism issue speaks to the values of Steller—that we should be a welcoming community. Kids who would be picked on at a traditional school are treated well at Steller.

Harlod said this issue represents the conflict in our values, in the difficulty of providing both a program for self-directed students and a welcoming environment for students who cannot manage a self-directed environment. The group discussed this challenge in several aspects. We reached a consensus that defining our program expectations more clearly and communicating them aggressively to prospective students would be an important step.

On the value list, we made the following progress:

1.    It was agreed to split the item surrounding academics into a “serious/purposeful” value and an “intellectual work” value.
2.    The value of risk-taking should be augmented with the need for the school to push into new areas of learning outside their preferences or comfort zone.
3.    We discussed the subject of personalized education at length. We settled on the key phrase as “ownership of the path to learning.” Personalization must come from the student.
4.    We grouped “Preparing students for life (post-secondary)” with “intellectual work.”
5.    We grouped “Purposefulness: Dedication and commitment” with “seriousness.”

We ran out of time. The group felt our discussion had been deep and meaningful, and should provide some good support for drafting the value terms. Joe suggested that Charles draft a new, cleaned-up list and bring it back to the group for editing.

Combined Value Lists

•    Academics: Develop skills and knowledge through rigorous study.
•    Academics: Rigorous foundation of relevance (to today’s world)
•    Relevance: Doing work that is meaningful
•    Rigor: Putting effort into what you are doing, on a consistent basis
•    Intellectual Growth: Development of higher-level reasoning skills

•    Academic risk taking
•    Encouraging risk taking in a safe, supportive environment.

•    Personalization: Opportunity to pursue personal goals. Students are not pigeon holed—we allow them to create their own.
•    Taking initiative in personalized education.
•    Ownership of path to learning
•    Non-traditional: Challenging ourselves through unique learning opportunities.

•    Diversity: Acceptable of diverse student and staff abilities and assets
•    Individuality: Our differences are/become our strengths.
•    Valuing differences and encouraging uniqueness.
•    Diversity: Embracing differences
•    Respect: Acceptance of values of all.

•    Community: Cultivating and nurturing relationships from the classroom to the world.
•    Community: Everyone matters!
•    Steller students, parents, staff interact with each other and community.
•    Community Involvement: Within the Steller community and reaching out to the larger community
•    World Citizenship: Recognition, respect our interconnectedness

•    Self-Directed: Ownership of your path to learning/follow your heart.
•    Freedom: Ability to make choices about what you do and think
•    Self-motivation: Desire to move forward independently

•    Responsible Freedom: Encourage ourselves to choose wisely.
•    Responsible freedom [or separately]: [Being referred to committee]
•    Responsibility: Acceptance of student independence.
•    Using your freedom responsibly.
•    Responsibility: Doing the right thing without being told

•    Respect: For property; for self; for others.
•    Sharing responsibility with others in the community.
•    Kindness and respect for others.
•    Kindness: Friendships developed within a community with empathy and respect
•    Compassion: Empathy for the condition of others.

•    Enthusiastic love of learning.
•    Love of Learning: Joyful enthusiasm for life-long learning

•    Mentorship: Get it, own it, pass it on.
•    Mentorship: We can be stronger if we help others behind us.

•    Leadership: Allowing for all to step up.
•    Leadership:
•    Empowerment: Enable students to own their intellectual and social development

•    Fun: Finding joy in all things together.
•    Participation: We want this to be an intrinsic goal.
•    Student/parent/teacher cooperation: The essential triangle.
•    Developing mature interactions.
•    Preparing students for life (post-secondary)
•    Learning Through Experience: Learning is not only academic but experiential
•    Purposefulness: Dedication and commitment
•    Inspiration:
•    Natural Consequence: Accepting that everything you do has a natural consequence. No neutrality.

Categories: Strategic Plan

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