Hillsborough School Board studies its mission

02/12/08 Seán Kinane
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The Hillsborough County School District is in the process of crafting new mission, vision, and values statements. Today, the seven School Board members, Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, and her staff of chief officers and assistant superintendents held a workshop to set strategic goals for the school district.

Hillsborough County School Board Member April Griffin said this workshop, which was facilitated by Tom Ahonen from Minnesota, was needed because the district is in the process of shifting its priorities.

“Our focus is changing from student-focused to community-focused. What are our students going to do once they graduate from school? And we’ve got to start getting that into the culture of the school district and the employees and the students and moving in that direction so this is a part of that whole process.”

Griffin said the School Board should also play a role in making sure the district’s vision plan is executed in the classroom.

“We are the ones who come up with that vision and mission. We are the dreamers. We’re the ones who put all of that down into writing for everybody to follow. Once we get that all solidly in place, then we’ve got to get that out into the district on a regular basis and make it a part of our everyday working atmosphere.”

The staff of Superintendent MaryEllen Elia participated in the workshop. They are the assistant superintendents and leaders of what Elia called "key operational areas of the school district." Elia said it's still a work in progress, but the district has agreed upon values and this mission statement: “Providing educational opportunities as lifelong learners and community members."

"I think there’s a focus in there on making sure that the community is part of what we’re working with our students to appreciate and to support,” she added.

Superintendent Elia said the purpose of the workshop was to come up with objectives within the district’s four goal areas.

“The first is student achievement, safety, human resources and fiscal responsibility; and within each of those areas, there are specific strategic objectives that the board is working to identify and to put in place. We have been working on these for just about two years, and so we already are looking at those areas, some of the things that the staffs at various departments and divisions have put together. But this is the opportunity for the board to look at and make sure that we are within kind of the areas that they think are most important.”

Jennifer Faliero, chair of the Hillsborough County School Board, discussed the purpose of setting strategic objectives.

“So that we make sure that our priorities are all in alignment. It gives staff a clear direction on where the board’s priorities are and the superintendent’s. … And that’s what we’re trying to define with staff because that’s a collective staff that can’t be done by board and by staff [separately]. When you have two pieces of the leadership team working from different sets of perceived goals then you’re not going to have a cohesive message. And that’s what we’re trying to do now, is set that: a combined set of goals.”

A combined workshop between Hillsborough County School Board members and upper-level School District staff is beneficial, according to School Board member Susan Valdes.

“If everything is scattered around and just going in different directions, we’re not -- in the end, we’re all working for the same thing, which is great student achievement and success for all students -- but we’re not in synch. So hopefully what we’ll do today is while having fun, and having a relaxed atmosphere, being able to achieve some of that and get down to the nitty-gritty of the district.”

The next Hillsborough County School Board meeting is at 3 p.m. Feb. 19 at 901 E. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa.

Learn more:

Hillsborough County Public Schools

Hillsborough County School Board

MaryEllen Elia, Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools

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