Long-range school planning commences

Kendra Baker photos
Around 100 community members gathered in Wilton High School’s Zellner Gallery the evening of Monday, May 21, for the first meeting of the Wilton Public School District’s long-range planning committee.

At the beginning of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Superintendent Kevin Smith went over the purpose of the meeting and the committee’s roles and responsibilities of reviewing the district’s vision and strategic objectives, identifying its strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities, and developing a “road map” for the district for the next three to five years.

Committee members were divided into eight groups and each table was assigned a school in the district.

After watching Ken Robinson’s “Bring on the Learning Revolution!” TED Talk, each group went over the district’s vision statement:

  • All Wilton graduates will be innovators, collaborators and creative and critical thinkers who are high achieving, socially responsible, civic-minded and have internalized the virtues of compassion and empathy.

  • The district’s “instructional program will meet the demands of a globally interconnected society by providing a rigorous and comprehensive, holistic educational experience.

  • As a result, Wilton Public Schools will be recognized as a premier, dynamic, learner-focused district that leads the nation in educational excellence.

Members of each group then highlighted “the important words and phrases” in the vision statement and shared them with one another.

Back to the Future Protocol

The groups then participated in a “Back to the Future Protocol,” where they projected seven years into the future and described what they saw, heard and felt at their assigned school.

Some of the many descriptions shared during the meeting included no more desks, more technology and increased collaboration.

High school science teacher Jim Lucey said he envisioned seeing students graduating in three to five years instead of four and engaging in learning experiences outside the classroom.

Board of Finance member Richard Creeth said he envisioned a different “idea of success” — “happy kids doing what they want to do in the world.”

Wilton High School English teacher Michelle Cota said she could hear “laughter and collaboration.”

Another man said he envisioned “vibrant and dynamic teachers delivering education in exciting, new and interesting ways.”

In addition to hearing “an awesome band,” Wilton High School band director Nick Loafman said, he envisioned students who are “OK with … and learn from failure.”

Math instructional leader Cindy Cherico said she envisioned a change in grading structure and “teachers engaging students so they feel passionate about subjects.”

A Wilton High School student named Izzy said she envisioned less homework and “fast wi-fi everywhere.”

Parent and Wilton Education Foundation member Jim Kineon said he envisioned “students who are comfortable working [through] difficult situations” because they “have the tools and strategies” needed to do so.

After describing the projected present, the groups “looked back” and described how the schools looked before then — in other words, the present day.

One high school student said she saw “stressed” students.

Loafman saw “way less resilience and understanding” among students and “less validity from adults.”

Kineon said he heard “lots of unclear news on where the schools were going” and why students were being “taught certain ways.”

Wilton High School Principal Bob O’Donnell said he “experienced students frenetically racing through seven 45-minute periods.” Cota said she “experienced teachers feeling the same way,” as well as students “crying daily.”

Cherico said she saw “teachers trying to reconcile standardized testing” and “where they fit in” with individualized learning.

Lucey said he saw “students checking grades … more than once a day” and “teachers working really hard to offer independent study to meet students’ needs.”

The groups then discussed actions needed to get from the projected past — present day — to the projected future.

Ideas mentioned ranged from professional development and continued funding and support for fine and performing arts programs to regular, fostered communication among students, parents and community members.

One member of each group recorded their table’s ideas and “observations” onto large sheets of paper, which were then hung on the windows and walls of the Zellner Gallery for everyone else to see and compare.

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 18, in the Zellner Gallery, from 6:30 to 9.