'Personalized learning' at heart of Inter-Lake's new strategic plan

MEREDITH — The first formal presentation of an Inter-Lakes School District Strategic Plan, which has been nearly two years in the making, stressed that personalizing each student's education while focusing on effective communication and critical and creative thinking inspires learning and maximizes successes.
The plan was unveiled Tuesday evening before the Inter-Lakes School Board when it met at the Inter-Lakes Elementary School and it identified five core values: Personalized Learning, the Arts, Wellness, Involvement and Resources.
Kathleen Hill, I-L school district curriculum director, and Patricia Kennelly, I-LHS principal, co-chairs of the personalized learning committee, said that it was important that teachers and students be provided with resources and training to participate in continuous, anywhere, anytime learning and that a mentoring system be developed that supports students in a variety of venues and helps them develop different competencies.
School Board member Mark Billings, also a member of that committee said that he and other members of the committee believe personalizing education ''is transformational. It changes the one size fits all model we've had for too long and gets to the individuality of each student.''
As part of the change, an assessment system would be used which is based on a demonstration that competence exists and would include student self-reflection that identifies strengths and weaknesses as well as specific feedback for improvement.
Board member Howard Cunningham asked if there was any timeline on when the strategic plan would be implemented and Hill said that it currently was like looking down from a hot air balloon at the objects on the ground and was going to take a lot of work to move from generalities to specifics on how how it would be implemented.
Christina Gribben, guidance director and co-chair of the the Arts Committee, said that while the school district has a wide variety of arts offerings they are not consistently integrated throughout the curriculum.
The committee urged that the district sponsor an annual Arts Celebration Week which would conclude with a district-wide show of performance, language and fine arts and that extended learning opportunities be provided through internships in the arts involving local artists and arts organizations.
Wellness was seen as encompassing safety of students and staff in reacting to emergency situations as well as health education and implementing a comprehensive training program for all staff and contracted employees was rated a top priority.
When it comes to involvement, the district is being asked to develop a district-wide program to recruit, train, support and recognize volunteers which will be known as a Volunteer Improvement Program and will be headed by a VIP leader,. The district will also seek to involve families in the district's curriculum, instruction, assessment and educational programs.
The discussion of resources, led by Allan Hale, school district technology chair, and Kay Mulcahy, Inter-Lakes Elementary School assistant principal, touched on aggressive recruitment of well qualified teachers and prompted a discussion of developing a Master Teacher Program which would reward accomplished teachers with a greater scope of responsibility at the building level and higher pay.
John Edgar, Meredith director of Community Development and a member of Personalized Learning Committee, said that developing a program for exceptional teachers was ''central to a lot of elements of the strategic plan'' and that it would need further development down the road.
The school board welcomes public comment on the strategic plan and will take it up again when it meets in May and may set out priorities for implementation when it meets in August.