An update on the School District of Fort Atkinson’s new five-year Strategic Plan was presented to the board of education Thursday night.

District Administrator Dr. Lynn Brown shared with board members where the district is with its action plans specific to each “bold step.”

“It’s a pleasure to share with the board the implementation of our Strategic Plan so far,” she said.

In Fall of 2018, the district launched a new, visionary strategic plan founded on eight design principles that will guide the district for the next five years.

For 2018-19, the board approved the design team’s recommendation of five bold steps: Equity, public relations, parent and community engagement, student support resources, and innovation.

“Tonight, I want to give the board and community an update and share where we are with our action plans specific to each bold step,” Brown said.

• The superintendent first looked at initial implementation of a district-wide system for equity.

“On Jan. 8, we launched our district-wide equity team with 32 certified staff members representing all buildings,” Brown said. “Thirty were present at this meeting.

“We did an icebreaker to build connection with one another, then introduced the Integrated Comprehensive Systems (ICS) Equity Framework and its components,” she added. “We talked about the benefits of being on this team as well as the commitment required for the remainder of the 2018-19 school year as well as the 2019-20 school year.”

Their second meeting has been rescheduled for Feb. 28.

Action plans for initial implementation of a district-wide system for equity, the superintendent said, involve: Developing an understanding of the ICS research and framework for equity; engaging in activities to understand perspectives in equity and implications for system-wide practices, and developing equity non-negotiables.

“In looking at our bold action plans, we are in the process of developing an understanding of the ICS research and framework for equity,” Brown said. “Our goal is to have the district-wide equity team ready to continue this work as school communities during the 2019-20 school year.”

• Next, she looked at developing and implementing a comprehensive public relations plan. On Feb. 8, she said, Director of Business Services Jason Demerath and Rockwell Elementary School Principal Jennifer Walden facilitated a focus group comprised of community relations experts from this area.

“During this meeting, the group provided feedback and guidance on next steps for recommendations with regard to this bold step,” Brown shared. “Members of this meeting have agreed to continue to offer their expertise with regards to this work.”

These local experts, she noted, are Mark Haubenschild, president/CEO of Spacesaver Corporation; Rochelle Mitchell, vice president-marketing director at PremierBank; Kory Knickrehm, vice president of sales at mkCellular; Marissa Weidenfeller, marketing director at Fort Community Credit Union; Nicole Leibman, marketing manager, Fort HealthCare; Kristin Baird, president/CEO of Baird Group; Brian Bosch, Fort Atkinson High School Business Education teacher; Deilee Calvert, owner, Calee Street Marketing; Nathan Daniels, FAHS Business Education teacher; Mariah Hadler, company store sales and marketing manager at Jones Market; John Landowski, Digital Marketing director, Custom Creative; Robyn Newcomb, vice president of Strategic Initiatives, FCCU; Jason Demerath and Jennifer Walden.

Action plans to develop and implement a comprehensive public relations plan, the district administrator said, involve: Defining district objectives and goals for public relations efforts; researching public relations models and the impact of those models used by other school districts; engaging public relations professionals in the community to advise district planning; determining a best-value approach to a comprehensive public relations strategy.

“So, this bold step team has defined objectives and goals for public relations, researched award-winning public relations models and the impact of those models used by other school districts, and have engaged public relations professionals in the community to advise the district’s planning,” Brown said. “The administration will study these recommendations to inform future planning in this bold step area.”

• Next, she focused on developing a plan to engage and involve parents and community. So far, she said, school officials have: Provided professional development for the administrative team on the Department of Public Instruction’s vision for Family Engagement and federal ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) requirements; selected a model based on research by Dr. Steven Constantino for the district to utilize to align to best practice; and shared a resource with principals with more than 100 ideas to build strong relationships with families and community.

“The family engagement bold step area has had a busy stretch since the last board of education update,” Brown said. “(Luther Elementary School Principal) Mr. (Dave) Geiger and (Director of Instruction) Amy Oakley completed the research phase of the project by reviewing all of the DPI-released family engagement resources and expectations for districts under the new federal ESSA.

“The administrators learned how family and community engagement can be utilized as a key strategy in lifting student growth and achievement as well as improving school culture,” she added.

Action plans for implementing this bold step, the superintendent said, involve: researching high-impact strategies for parent and community engagement; forming collaborative groups to consider strategies for implementation, and determining meaningful engagement opportunities at the school and community levels.

“The bold step team has done the research for high-impact strategies for parent and community engagement,” Brown informed the board. “The next step is to move into inventorying all of the engagement opportunities currently in place in the district to establish a baseline for our work moving forward.

“The building principals will be integrating this work into already established teams, such as school improvement teams or PTO groups, in the buildings to use the ideas in the shared resources to enhance improvement work,” she added.

• Regarding implementing and enhancing access to student support resources, the superintendent said the team continues to focus on understanding and rolling out the CASEL (Collaborative Academic Social Emotional Learning) Framework. This framework, she said, has been introduced to the district PBIS teams and administration.

“The Student Support Bold Steps team also has been making great progress,” Brown said. “This team continues to focus on understanding and rolling out the CASEL Framework.”

The framework, she said, has been introduced to the district PBIS teams and administration.

“The teams explored the framework and worked through the needs analysis rubric to determine building-level starting points,” Brown said. “This information will guide future direction of individual buildings in their SEL growth.”

An important part of this framework, she said, is developing and fostering adult social emotional learning.

“The team has chosen the Compassion Resilience Toolkit which focuses on teacher resilience and compassion,” Brown shared. “Teacher resilience is a relatively recent area of investigation which provides a way of understanding what enables teachers to persist in the face of challenges and offers a complementary perspective to studies of stress, burnout and attrition.”

Teacher resilience, she said, is defined as “using energy productively to achieve school goals and meet students’ needs in the face of adversity.”

“Compassion is the combination of the consciousness of others’ distress and a desire to alleviate it,” Brown continued. “It is a basic quality needed to be able to meet students’ needs.”

District and building-level teams, she said, attended an introduction to the toolkit and will be formally trained on March 5. The training then will be implemented over the next three years.

“The programming and needs related to English Learners and Gifted Learners have been examined, and the committee is working on recommendations to the board for additional support to meet student needs in those areas,” Brown said.

• Next, the district administrator discussed researching and identifying opportunities for innovation in the district.

“In the area of innovation, the first action plan was to understand how to establish a systemic culture of innovation within our learning community,” Brown said. “This includes spotlighting what already is innovative in our district.”

She then showed a short video showcasing some of the innovation already present in the School District of Fort Atkinson.

“Recognizing, valuing and celebrating the innovative efforts throughout our school district helps us understand how to continue growing a systemic culture of innovation within our learning community,” Brown said.

Examples of innovation are all around, she pointed out.

“Some of the areas highlighted in our district that you might recognize is the Luther Innovation Lab down the hall,” Brown remarked. “The Innovation Lab helps inspire students to learn through doing; to uncover talents, interests and passions by making, solving, collaborating, thinking, creating, failing and trying again. The lab incorporates science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, or STEAM.”

Another innovative opportunity that currently exists in the district, highlighted in the MusicFirst video clip, showcases an innovative piece of software that allows music students to get instant feedback on their playing.

“They also can submit their work to their teacher for grading and storing in their digital music portfolio,” Brown explained. “And the list goes on … to learn more visit

“Innovation efforts also include building and maintaining a website showcasing both the appreciated and unappreciated efforts of innovation happening around our district,” she added, “while also offering a sounding board for future endeavors that might just be an idea hungry for resources to get off the ground.”

This bold step, the superintendent said, strives to empower the entire learning community to think creatively and innovatively, and offer an avenue to turn ideas into reality.

“Overall, the innovation bold step team has embraced the first action plan of understanding innovative practices already within the School District of Fort Atkinson, highlighting those, and invited others to share their innovative practices,” Brown said. “They now are moving forward to the second action plan and will take into account the community input from the design team last spring.”

In closing, she said, at the mid-year point, the difference between the previous, more traditional strategic plan and this new visionary model is increasingly evident.

“While much of this work is in the early stages of development, and the process is new, the impact of the bold steps are accelerating us toward creating a district of greater distinction,” Brown concluded, acknowledging the administrators who tirelessly have championed the bold steps. “We are excited about the progress made and know that this work has a high impact on the learners in the School District of Fort Atkinson.”

Also Thursday, the board:

• Approved the school nursing services contract with Fort HealthCare for nursing services from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. This contract reflects the same amount of service hours, but a 3 percent increase in cost.

• Recognized Luther Art Gallery students and staff. (Look for photos in an upcoming edition of the Daily Union.)

Meanwhile, the board was expected to:

• Accept the retirement request from Cynthia Bliss, full-time art teacher at Fort Atkinson Middle School, effective at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Bliss has devoted 26 years of service and dedication to the students and community.

• Accept the resignation request from Jen Prowitz, full-time science and social studies teacher at Fort Atkinson Middle School, effective at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Prowitz has devoted 16 years of service and dedication to the students and community.

• Accept the donation of a 2002 Ford Focus to High School Skills USA from John Riley; towing service from Klement Towing; monetary donation for the middle school rollerblading fees from the Optimist Club; monetary donation to replace two playground structures at Purdy Elementary School from the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation and Purdy PTO; monetary donation to purchase archery club T-shirts from Hunt-N-Gear; and winter gear for Purdy Elementary students from Trinity Lutheran Church.

  • Adopt changes to the Administrator Employee Handbook for use in the district.

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