May 20, 2019

Facilities and District Improvement Plan Update

Friday, the Sparta Area School District held our groundbreaking ceremony for Herrman Elementary School, located at 925 N. Black River Street.  Groundbreaking ceremonies are an important time to reflect on the work that has been done and the work left to do in order to meet our goals of coming in on time, on budget, and with a quality facility.  We are on track for all three.

Most importantly, it is a time to say Thank You to the community for your ongoing support of Sparta schools.  Together, we can take our District from good to great.  Our new facilities stand as a symbol of our new direction.  Simply put, it is not enough to have fantastic new facilities to take our school district from good to great.  To get to great, we are committed to improvement from the inside out.

The work that you see on our facilities is being matched by hard work internally that can be more difficult to see.  We have begun implementing a District Improvement Plan this year.  It is focused on improving our universal instruction, increasing our mental health capacity, and providing targeted interventions so that ALL of our students can experience success.  It includes building the capacity of our staff through systemic collaboration using Professional Learning Communities, revamping our teacher professional development to be aligned with district goals for achievement, and minimizing the amount of time teachers are away from their classrooms.  We have included Instructional Coaches in our staffing plan to support teachers in the classroom with students so that our teachers can continue to hone and refine their skills and stay abreast of the best current teaching practices.

Most importantly, we are working on building a culture of excellence, kindness, and professionalism so that our staff can serve our community in a way that supports parents and families to raise our next generation to be critical thinkers with the grit, resilience, and internal drive to succeed.

We can approach change in one of two basic ways:  We can change a program or an initiative here or there and we might or might not see short-term gain OR we can dig in do the difficult work of changing minds, hearts, and action.  This second type of change involves examining all of our practices critically and studying our data to make system-wide decisions in the best interest of students.  We have chosen this second type of change as our pathway to excellence.  We are committed to doing the hard work it takes to build a school system that demonstrates long-term success for our students and community.

These are lofty goals, and we aren’t there yet.  This work takes time.  It happens one student, one teacher, one classroom, and one school at a time.  It is the work of continuous improvement and the work of defining and striving for excellence.  We have the students, staff, and facilities to make it happen.  We have the support of our community to achieve excellence.  The journey has begun to realizing and living our mission and vision, “To educate all students, academically, emotionally, and socially to inspire curiosity and resilience,” and “To provide the best educational journey for all.”

– Dr. Amy Van Deuren, Superintendent