FORT SMITH -- The School Board adopted a new improvement plan for the School District during its meeting Monday, which ruled out another millage election.
The plan was developed with input from staff, students and the community during several public meetings last fall and replaces the district's previous Vision 2023 plan, which concluded in December.
The Vision 2023 projects were paid for with a 5.558-mill property tax increase voters approved in May 2018. The increase generated roughly $121 million before expiring. An additional $13 million from gifts and other sources increased the capital improvement money to $134 million.
Vision 2023 projects included additional safety and security, building improvements, increased classroom capacity, expanded technology and a career and technology center.
The Continuous Improvement Plan focuses on certain aspects of the previous plan. It includes an update to the district's motto, mission, values and vision statement. It also list four goals the district will implement over the next year:
• Students will master grade-level reading targets by the beginning of third grade. For their remaining school career, they will achieve reading targets at or above grade level.
• Students will perform at or above grade level in math.
• Schools and administrative buildings will be safe, welcoming environments where authentic, productive relationships are valued.
• The system guarantees relevant classes for every secondary student and maximizes student choice.
Superintendent Terry Morawski said it was important for the goals to be measurable.
"We didn't want them to be just lofty goals that are abstract, but things that we can actually measure and track," he said. "And then it was important to build on existing programs and initiatives, especially from our staff perspective. They didn't want to get an initiative overload, they didn't want 100 new things to do. They felt like there were some things that were really going very well that we could build on while continuing to improve the district, as well."
Morawski said feedback from the staff that isn't included in the plan, but has been noted by the district, included focusing on their mental health, pay increases for employees and adequately preparing students for the grade level they'll enter each year. He said input from students included wanting more understanding of the class election process, and the community requested students learn life and work skills in addition to academics.
Morawski said district leadership will build a data dashboard to monitor progress on the plan's four goals, which will be reviewed by the board and also online for public viewing. He said he sees the plan being updated roughly every three years, or sooner if the goals are met to the School Board's satisfaction.
School Board member Dalton Person thanked district officials for the time and effort put into the plan and requested they do community meetings more often. He suggested going to a handful of campuses each year on a rotational basis.
Board member Talicia Richardson questioned how the last two goals will be measured.
"I'm looking right now at the students that are going into sixth grade that don't have the ability to play sports in middle school because of our situation not being able to hire coaches. So how is that going to work? How are we going to measure something when we know we may not have the tools to make an impact in that? Because you would hate to be dinged on something that you can't do anything about," she said.