The four biggest challenges facing the District in the next five years are: Financial Stability; COVID-19 Impact on Student Achievement; Strategic Plan Implementation; and Equity for all Students.
According to District 204's Tentative FY21 Budget projection published in August, the District's expenses are exceeding revenue, and there is a projected $1.9 million deficit for the year, causing the District to dip into reserves which is approximately 5% of the Fund Balance. Current revenue projections may be overstated as the other local Sources of Revenue may be hard hit in the back half of the year with the uncertain times of the Pandemic and with numerous businesses that might have contributed via sales tax now being closed. The District will need to prioritize capital projects and work judiciously to find a balanced budget and to replenish the fund balance, while at the same time not losing programing that provide our students with an exceptional education.
As students have been missing in-person instruction due to COVID-19, there are concerns about the impact on students.
The school closures have added to the time that most students spend at home and have almost eliminated explicit face-to-face instruction from teachers. Our District will need to find ways to assess students to understand exactly where students are academically and consider options to further differentiate instruction or provide opportunities for individualized learning for those who are more negatively impacted by the lack of in-person instruction. In order to make up ground for COVID-19 learning loss, the District should consider how teachers can work with students to determine growth rates and set learning goals that are ambitious but obtainable.
Additionally, the social emotional burden of learning remotely may be difficult for many students as they are faced with isolation, anxiety about the virus, and uncertainty about their future. Supporting our students emotionally will also be an important priority for the District to ensure their achievement.
It is important for District 204 to create the right vision for all stakeholders and identify the best support system to effectively implement a comprehensive strategic plan. It will be key to rally Administrators, Teachers, Staff, Parents, Students and Community Members around the District’s mission and goals to develop a strategic plan and to have widespread support for its implementation. After development, the District should consider the use of a balanced scorecard to monitor progress of its plan by tracking historical trend data and identifying future measurement targets through the use of continuous improvement processes and tools to make systemic improvements
While close to two thirds of our Grade 11 students are meeting or exceeding expectations on the SAT Test, we still have one third of our students who are not performing well and there is a trend that certain sub-groups are consistently not performing as well as the rest of the student population. The District should re-assess how to address this inequity and find a way to better support the learning for all of these students. Additionally, since the SAT Test is an important barometer for College Entrance, the District should assess whether refinements to the curriculum are needed in order to better prepare all of our students for the global society that they live in.
In order for our District to go from Good to Great, the educational program must work for all kinds of diverse learners. We must produce high expectations and student outcomes for all learners regardless of race, gender, national origin and socioeconomic status.