New ORR district strategy plan approved at school committee meeting

Sep 27, 2018

The Old Rochester Regional School District has approved “Vision 2023,” a new five-year strategic plan aimed at “energizing student development.”

Old Rochester Superintendent Dr. Douglas White told the Joint School Committee and Superintendency Union on Sept. 27 that the strategic plan will echo the district’s mission to inspire tri-town students “to think, to learn, and to care.”

The new plan has three major goals: providing students with 21st century learning, fostering social and emotional competency, and creating a sense of global citizenship. 

In the plan, a 21st century learner is defined as a student who showcases life and career skills, innovations skills, and technology skills.

The first year of the plan will focus heavily on training educators on the goals and introducing revamped teaching methods. This includes providing students with more exposure to and more opportunities with “project based learning.”

White explained that project based learning is a way to prepare students for the real world. Over an extended period of time, students tackle projects and demonstrate learning by creating a tangible product. 

Some committee members expressed concerns about project based learning. Heather Burke suggested that the teaching method is a concern.

“Our teachers are not prepared to do this,” Burke said. “There is a tremendous amount of teacher training that needs to happen before we start rolling this out.” 

White acknowledged her concerns and suggested that the new plan is largely devoted to training teachers to be prepared for project based learning.

“We need to make sure that we’re providing the background and the experiences so that when [teachers] do put a project learning experience together it has all the components necessary,” said White. 

White then moved on to discussing the plan’s next goal, fostering emotional and social competency. What does that mean? According to White, it all starts with creating an environment in which students feel supported by their schools.

“We want to make sure that every student that comes into our buildings is greeted,” said White. “It’s something that means so much to any of us.”

The goal is focused on student inclusion, safety, and improved methods of discipline. 

The final goal laid out by White includes teaching students to be “global citizens.” Global citizenship is designed to expose students to multiculturalism, diversity, and global awareness in all elements of the curriculum. 

“It really opens the door to have hard conversations,” said Chairperson Tina Rood. 

The goal, said Rood, with help expose students to the broader world and dispel preconceived notions. 

Following the presentation, both the Joint School Committee and Superintendency Union approved the 2023 strategic plan. 

“Thank you to the committee,” White added. “But also to everyone else who worked on it including our students whose voice needs to continue to be heard as we put this [plan] into action.”