An unabridged version of the May Lancer article discussing the future of South Lake with the district’s superintendent Ted VonHiltmayer
Gillian Skiba ’18
Posted on Wednesday, June 6th, 2018
Q: What are some of the goals of the Strategic Planning Committee?
A: We had our first meeting with that core group of people on April 14th, so we were able to narrow some things down we had prior to meeting. We had sent out a survey to the community, so we had that info that was included in the meeting.
We kind of boiled it down to three different areas that were the areas of focus based on the conversations that day and based on the survey information. So that was the communication slash perception of the district, that was one area. The district facilities was another and the third area was student preparation.
When we had our administrative PLC the other day, which was Wednesday, part of the strategic planning was now the next step is we want to look at our mission. Well first our vision, our mission, and then look at some other areas and goals. SO, that’s a process that we’re gunna start working through with some smaller groups.
Right now we worked on a new vision and a new mission statement. And then we’re going to bring some staff in and others in, hopefully before the end of the month.
Right now we just have some rough drafts of kin d of like the new vision statement for the district, a new mission statement, and we didn’t even start working on kinda those other areas like our goals at this point.
“It’s kind of been a work in progress, but we’re trying to be as collaborative as we can with everyone so that we get as many differing viewpoints as we possibly can.
Q: What people are involved with the Strategic Planning Committee?
A: We had teachers represented. We basically have school improvement chairs at every building, so we invited those individuals to come. We had our administrators that were there, we had parents that were there, we had community members that were present.
We actually had a pretty good representation of the school
One thing I do want to include is if we can get some students as well. There basically were adults there on that Saturday, and at some point we need to involve the students and try and get some feedback from them as well.
Q: Are there different goals you have for beyond this upcoming year?
A: What we’re looking at right now would just be for the future of South Lake, so it would be something that we can start putting into place now, but these would be goals that we would have for us as a district. You know, for our vision, one of the things we did was ya know, ‘What is our utopia?’ ‘What is our perfect vision of what South Lake schools would look like in the future?’ And that’s where we’re kind of basing the information the information and trying to create a new vision statement. The mission statement is ‘What are we doing each day to try to get to that point?’
Q: What can you share about your “utopia” for the district?
A: Some of the things that were discussed were, We discussed technology, you know, how that’s going to be incorporated. We’ve been doing some work with technology. It is a part of the bond, so we’ve just recently had a few technology meetings and we did just recently have some vendors come in and present to us different devices that we potentially could use if we’re going to something like a one-to-one initiative.
We’re trying to get technology incorporated more into, not just to make things easier, but to actually change the way that people are teaching, students are learning. There’s two different mindsets there. You can have technology that just makes your life easier; it makes it easier for you to do your homework, it makes it easier for you as a student to write a paper. Or you could have technology that’s used that’s going to change the way that you’re actually learning and being taught in the classroom, so we would like to do that. I guess our ultimate goal is to change the, change what we’re doing in the classroom, you can use technology just not to make things easier, but to actually transform the way that things, what’s happening in the classroom itself.
Q: What changes have you seen in the district since you have taken over?
A: I would say that I’ve been pleased that everybody seems to be working well together, or better together. I’ve been visiting with buildings every other month. I go and I visit with the building and just anybody that wants to come and have a conversation with me about what’s going on, if they like something that’s going on or if they have suggestions of improvements, whatever it may be, the topics vary.
I did meet with some students last year, I’d like to do more of that in the future, because part of what I’d like to see is more collaboration, more communication. That’s one of the things that came out as well, as we were talking. Our strategic planning is, like I said, is everybody wants there to be better communication.
I think everybody always will, because there’s a lot of times people want information that they really don’t have the right to have. So, I think that’ll be something that is always said. But I think that we could improve our communication between our buildings. We’re a small district, we only have five buildings, so there’s really not much, it’s not like a district of 20 or 30 buildings where it would be difficult to communicate, so I mean, I think I would like to see ya know that improve as well. I think that we’re working towards that, we’re doing more events that involve the different schools. You know, we’ve done eats beats and greets where we have elementary and middle schoolers coming to the high school for an event. The middle school and the elementary schools have been working trying to get the elementary people up at the middle school at events, so they can see what it’s like. We’ve had high school students that are going down to the elementaries, so, ya know, when I say like communication I just mean, not just communications, but just those interactions as well between the different grade levels, the different buildings. That’s something I think we’ve improved that I’d like to continue to work on.
Q: Do you have a vision for the district? Have you seen it realized?
A: There were a lot of things that I had as far as where I’d like to see the district going. One of my biggest concerns coming in was, ‘What is it that we’re going to do to try to keep people from leaving the district?’ Because what happens is we have some students each year that decide they really enjoyed South Lake through the elementary years but they’re not too sure about the middle school so they are leaving and going to another neighboring district.
So that was one of my goals, to see what is it that we can do. What is it that people want from South Lake that maybe we’re not providing to them, so that we could change that. That’s part of the reason why one of the things I wanted to do was go through the strategic planning process because it helps us to look at what it is that we’re doing well and what else is it that people want from us that we’re not doing.
So, we did a few other things last year that this year. This year we’ve started the strategic planning, so last year we made some changes. We changed the attendance areas of the elementaries because we had bus transfers of students from one building to another. So we had some students waiting as long as an hour after school at one of the elementaries before they got picked up.
We did three things actually. We made changes to that. We eliminated that by giving each building its own attendance area. We expanded the number of bus stops, because then everyone got a bus stop within their attendance area, so that it made it more convenient for people, hopefully for them to be closer to a bus and get to their school. And then we changed the start time of the high school and added bussing for the high school. So, we had to do all of those things kind of at the same time in order to make that happen.
So in order for one of those things to happen then all three things had to happen. We originally wanted to make some changes just to the start time at the high school because of the research that shows the benefits to teenagers. As you get older and as you’re a teenager you benefit from starting later, not earlier, because just your body cycles and your sleep cycles and so on. There’s lots of research that shows school shouldn’t start at the high school before 8:30.
So we made those changes, hopefully making it, you know trying to improve what’s going on in the buildings, the academics, trying to make it more convenient for people to get their children to school. Make it better at the elementaries so we don’t have a school that’s literally watching kids for an hour after the school leaves.
It’s all those things, so we’ve actually seen some improvements, cuz we lost fewer kids, fewer students last year to this year. So, I’m hoping it’s like a combination of all the things again, we’ve been doing more activities between the buildings, more things, so I mean, there’s been a variety of things that we’ve been doing to try and make improvements hopefully to give people what they want and at least it looks as if it’s having an impact. Because like I said, we had more students – we lost fewer students than we have the previous year to year, this current school year over last year.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
A: At some point we’re going to do a kind of a grand opening of the school, once we’ve cleaned the school again. Obviously it would be over the summer, but before we open up next year we want people to come and to be able to see the new restaurant, to see the new bistro, to see the new kitchen, our regular kitchen, the new cafeteria and some of the other improvements that have happened. So we’re going to try to put something together, maybe before the school year begins, to try and invite people in. I think that’s the one thing most people have been interested in, is kind of what’s going on, because a lot of people do come to the restaurant, so we get asked about that probably more than anything.