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Olathe schools add inclusion pillar to strategic plan after pandemic hiatus

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The Olathe school district has added one new goal to its district-wide strategic plan after revisiting it with the hope of relaunching it after it got put on the back-burner for much of the pandemic. 

The long-term framework — first rolled out in 2020 with the help of school administrators, educators, parents and community members — was put on a hiatus when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the normal delivery of K-12 education. At that point in time, the focus wasn’t so much on planning for the future in the Olathe school district, but getting through a public health crisis, outgoing Olathe school board members have said. 

“We felt that given the interruption to the original rollout of the Strategic Plan due to the pandemic, it was prudent to revisit the plan with fresh eyes to see if there were new areas we should consider incorporating given the initial implementation was not executed,” assistant superintendent for elementary education Tim Reeves said in an email. 

FRAMEWORK CHANGES 

The original goals pertaining to high academic performance, socio-emotional development, retention and recruitment of district staff and system-wide efficiency remain, but USD 233 has added a new focus dealing specifically with diversity and inclusion. 

The new pillar that prioritizes diversity, inclusion and equity outlines three priorities and a series of attached initiatives to go along with it. Those priorities are to provide “professional development to increase the cultural awareness” for district employees, to build “a welcoming, safe, inclusive and equitable school community” and to “increase student engagement and learning opportunities” through classroom and extracurricular opportunities. 

These elements come together in order to “actively include and value all students and staff to meet their unique needs by providing equitable opportunities in order to develop their understanding and respect of differences, thus preparing them to live in an inclusive, global community and world.” 

Reeves also said USD 233 formed a Strategic Plan Advisory Committee in 2021 made up of educators, district employees and community stakeholders to review progress twice a year. 

LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE 

The revised strategic plan was reviewed by the Olathe Board of Education in August, but a vote to reauthorize it wasn’t necessary. 

“The current plan is being used to guide decisions in our system and align our resources and work moving forward,” Reeves said. “It is important to have a plan in place to help our system prioritize initiatives, efforts, funds, programs, and people to ensure we are meeting the bold goals we have set for our system’s success.  Without clarity of goals, a system our size cannot ensure consistent experiences for all students. Without a district focus and roadmap, the programming and initiatives can become too numerous for the system to support.” 

The plan as it stands now will be in effect until 2026, at which time he says the district will seek to “embark on a new strategic planning process.” 

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