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White Bear Lake Area Schools
4855 Bloom Avenue
White Bear Lake, MN 55110
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Archived Article

"Our Future in Focus" article

With students back in the classroom for the 2018-19 academic year, we are excited for the many opportunities for learning slated to happen this year. Three priorities - the district-wide work related to the district's Strategic Plan, our comprehensive facilities review and planning process, and additional attention to safety and security - are especially poised to put our future in focus.

Last year, more than 200 district staff and community members came together to participate in building the district's strategic planning process, allowing us to start this year strong as we begin implementation of a new Strategic Plan unanimously approved by the School Board last spring.

Core to the district's plan are our efforts to ensure each student is the primary agent in their learning, provide expanding access to a broad range of opportunities for all students, foster community engagement and partnerships, and build organizational capacity. We will also embrace all cultures with humility and respect, ensure learning environments enhance students' educational experience, engage families as partners in the education of their children, and ensure the social and emotional growth of our students.

This year, these strategies will serve as a base for our individual school communities as they embark on their own strategic conversations. Each individual school and program will examine their current reality and create a roadmap for a future - one that has never existed before - through engagement and thoughtful dialogue happening this fall. Staff, families and community members are welcomed into the discussion as these voices are vital to the important conversations that will be taking place during this process. The engagement taking place at the district, school and program levels will create our new reality. They will allow us to see our future in focus.

Further engagement is on the docket. Our projected enrollment growth underscores the need for a comprehensive facilities review and planning process that will be kicked off this fall and continue throughout the year. The district worked with a local company this summer to collect data about our facilities, which included conducting walkthroughs at each of our buildings and meeting with building and program leaders. Next steps include community involvement, with engagement efforts taking place in order to collect input from the community at large.

A facility planning committee comprised of a trio of teams will focus on the areas of learning spaces, community spaces, and physical conditions. The district will kick off this engagement process the week of September 10 with an invitation for community members to join in this important work. Information about ways you can be involved, including an application process for the facilities planning committee team members, can be found at /news/index.asp?DocID=2415.

After thorough discussions and studies take place over the next several months, the three teams will identify the greatest needs throughout the district, develop potential solutions, and make recommendations to the School Board. It will be at that time that the School Board discusses a potential bond question to be on the ballot in the fall of 2019 or later. These robust conversations and thoughtful plans will allow us to see our future in focus.

Another district priority to highlight is additional attention to school safety and security. Over the summer, a Safety and Emergency Supervisor was hired to work throughout the district on safety initiatives. The new supervisor will be responsible for coordinating the District's emergency preparedness program, leading emergency and safety planning and strategies, and conducting emergency-related training sessions and drills. This position will also play a crucial role as we work to build on our already excellent relationships with first responders and local law enforcement agencies.

Efforts are also being made to provide additional tools to students. Beginning this fall, all middle school and high school students have access to a new electronic form, the Student Well-Being Tip Line, to report concerns regarding mental health, chemical use, social isolation, bullying, and harassment. While students may also continue to report concerns in person to an administrator, counselor, social worker or teacher, we anticipate this additional electronic avenue to report concerns will help students feel even more safe in reaching out.

This critical resource evolved from Strategic Planning conversations that highlighted the need to ensure the social and emotional growth of children and ensure learning environments enhance students' educational experience. The Tip Line is another way we strive to give students what they need to feel comfortable, safe, and empowered in our school environment, as helping us ensure the well-being of all students is a focus for the district moving forward.

We also continue to support parents in their safekeeping efforts. This fall, the district and the White Bear Lake Police Department will co-host the All-District Parent Safety Night on Thursday, November 8 at White Bear Lake Area High School - South Campus. Breakout sessions will cover topics such as mental health, human trafficking, internet safety, and youth drug trends and awareness. Teen driving laws and safety information also will be available. Information will continue to be shared as the event approaches. Free dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. with information sessions scheduled from 6-8:30 p.m. Free childcare is available for those who register prior to the event.

The efforts described above are just three of the exciting plans being put into action in White Bear Lake Area Schools as we begin the 2018-19 academic year. To get involved or learn more about these initiatives and others, find information on the district's website, www.isd624.org. We invite you to help us put our future in focus.

Dr. Wayne A. Kazmierczak, Superintendent of White Bear Lake Area Schools
Published by Press Publications, September 2018

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