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As Economy Changes, So Too Does District 202's Long-Range Plan

Planning for the future is key to ensuring the district meets its goals for the future, Supt. John Harper says.

“The future” arrives on our doorsteps every morning, dressed as 29,000 young people.

As with all school districts, teaches its students about the past – through history, social studies, etc. However, we have spent a significant amount of time in recent months looking to the future.

Last May we convened a group of about 300 parents, staff, community members, business leaders and students to help shape our new , which will guide our work from 2011-16.

District administrators fine-tuned the proposed 2011-16 strategic plan over the summer and early fall, and the board of education is expected to approve it this fall. This process required a lot of thoughtful input and hard work by many dedicated people.

Now, the real work begins.

Five years ago when we created the first District 202 strategic plan, we had a strong economy providing solid, stable revenue sources to help us meet our goals. Unfortunately, that economy doesn’t exist anymore.

Yet, our goal remains the same: to provide the best possible instruction, support and service to our students and community while making our financial ends meet. More important, our resolve is also just as strong as it was in 2001, if not more so.

Public education faces unprecedented challenges these days caused by problems that we didn’t create and cannot easily solve. These challenges are especially hard on large school systems like District 202, which struggle more today than ever to meet every child’s educational needs without adequate funding to do everything we want and hope to do.

Still, every child in America has a right to a public education, and it is our moral, legal and ethical obligation and opportunity to provide it, to the best of our ability. The 2011-12 strategic plan will help us to do that by providing a roadmap of our educational priorities and needs.

The proposed strategic plan calls for more technology in our classrooms, as well as more and better access to technology by our students and staff. It’s not enough to simply buy more “boxes and wires.” We need to better use these tools to improve teaching and learning.

It also calls for a heightened focus on safety in our schools, specifically on bullying. We have already started that work through initiatives like our Character Education program, our participation in Rachel’s Challenge, and similar efforts.

Our continuing challenge now will be to find ways to help our students learn, grow and succeed in a world with fewer resources than we once had, or that we need. This will require creativity, conviction, and no small measure of sacrifice by everyone.

Please review the proposed 2011-16 strategic plan and share your thoughts through the “D. 202 Inbox”. Both are posted on the front page of the district web site (www.psd202.org).

Despite these challenges, I am confident we will meet our goals for the next five years because our greatest resource remains our staff, students, parents and community members. Together, we will continue to create the future, one student at a time.

Dr. John Harper is the superintendent of Plainfield School District 202.

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