Summary of Our Strategic Planning Journey
We embarked on the initial planning for the AACPS 2018 – 2023 Strategic Plan in 2015 under the leadership of Superintendent of Schools, Dr. George Arlotto. At that time, we were seeking ways to create more connections in our community and enhance partner relationships that ultimately benefit our students and schools. We began the planning process by conducting focus groups throughout the county with various groups to find out what the members of the greater school community valued. The information we learned from our students, employees, families, and partners laid a strong foundation as they contributed an initial value set for beginning our Strategic Plan community conversations. Through focus groups, community forums, and regular planning meetings in the 2015-2017 window of time, our internal and external stakeholders communicated the qualities and attributes of our school system that they value, positive opportunities AACPS offers that set us apart from our peers, and their wish list of elements for us to consider implementing in our school system’s future.
Initially, we were inspired by Simon Sinek’s TedTalk about The Golden Circle in which Mr. Sinek explains that every single organization on the planet knows what they do – 100%, and some even know how they do it. But, very, very few people and organizations can explain what he calls “the WHY.” Why is it we do what we do? What is our purpose, our cause, our belief, our set of values – our WHY?
Driven by Sinek’s Golden Circle, we have focused on the connection between the community we serve and our school system. To identify the attributes that are central to AACPS and to discover what our stakeholders value about us, we conducted 25 focus groups and met with over 150 parents, students, employees, and community partners in the initial research phase of our process. Next, we conducted research where we tested the attributes valued by our focus group participants with the greater Anne Arundel County community. Over 5,600 people completed our survey that we subsequently analyzed to uncover what resonated with the community at large, what they value, and what they find unique about Anne Arundel County Public Schools. After our school system’s leadership and resource teams had multiple opportunities to review, discuss, and even challenge what these values looked like in our classrooms and offices throughout the school system, we invited all families in the AACCPS community to three community forums in February and March of 2017. An additional community meeting was held to share with and listen to our Spanish-speaking families. In each gathering, our Superintendent of Schools presented the values and listened to the community’s ideas surrounding those values. Slowly, we revised and narrowed the values in scope and number.
Finally, smaller working groups had the opportunity to provide input about the final remaining driving values and the potential impact they could have if we were to embrace them fully within our school system. Ultimately, over 500 participants, representing all stakeholders and geographic regions of the county, participated in the strategic planning process. Both the unique process and the 2018-2023 Strategic Plan that has grown from it differ from those strategic processes and plans in years past. While our new Strategic Plan includes some of the same traditional elements we have focused on in the past and those that our neighboring school systems have in their current plans, this plan is unique to Anne Arundel County because of the driving values that ground the plan.
We have articulated our WHY. The story of our WHY is told through our Driving Values – values identified, contemplated, reviewed, discussed, pruned, and debated by the Superintendent, his Executive Team, their many office and school-based teams, teachers and employees from all corners of the system, students, parents, and interested community members.
Value I: All Means All
- Everyone is Welcome Here - All Students, Families, Employees & Community Members Feel Welcome
- Diversity is Invited, Nurtured, and Celebrated
- Everyone in the AACPS Schools' Family Fosters Student Growth
Value II: Ready, Set, Launch: All Students are Prepared for College, Career, and Community
- Within the School Day Students are Fully Engaged and Supported to Achieve at their Potential
- Beyond the Classroom Walls AACPS Offers Opportunities for Students to Explore and Pursue their Passions and Interests
Value III: Sound Stewardship
- AACPS Business Practices are Designed for Quality, Effectiveness, and Efficiency
As you contemplate these values, you will see that there is a focus on Relationships, Rigor, and Readiness. We will most certainly continue to align our teaching and learning with established standards and will continue to collect data to demonstrate that our students are on a growth-path to meet or exceed those academic standards. However, our newly proposed Strategic Plan also focuses on the foundational elements which must be in place for students and adults, if students are to have the best chance to succeed physically, social emotionally, and academically in the complex, tech-enhanced, fast-paced, exciting, global world in which we live.
When healthy relationships are in place, we believe that students will be supported more strongly by adults and their peers. This support creates an environment where students feel safe to be themselves and engage fully in the learning community. Students who engage in learning at high levels have the greatest potential to achieve at high levels. And, increased engagement and achievement then leads to increased self-esteem. Success breeds more success. If relationships and rigor grow in tandem for a student throughout their educational journey and we simultaneously interlace career awareness opportunities in the form of exploration, job shadowing, mentorships, coaching, and internships, every student will then be ready to enter a career or enter college upon graduation with their interests and passions focused on career paths they have explored while in their K-12 courses and co-curricular offerings.