Working to develop a strategic plan that will guide the future of L.A. Unified, Superintendent Michelle King held a brainstorming session with scores of students, parents and community leaders to get their ideas on how to boost academic success.
“We are going to have a strategic plan that is based on us,” King said Saturday, during a daylong retreat at Cal State LA. “We’re setting aspirational goals to be the best school district, where families want to send their students and kids and employees want to come.”
The latest stop on King’s “Listen and Learn Tour” was held in conjunction with L.A. Compact, a network of civic, business and educational institutions working to improve student achievement. The 175 participants were hand-selected to weigh in on defining the District’s values and how they intersect with the goals of 100 percent graduation and preparing all students for success.
“Ms. King is an incredible leader and an incredible educator,” School Board President Steve Zimmer told the group. “She has made a conscious decision to move the district in the direction of all children and all of us working together.”
King started the day in a private meeting with about five dozen high school students, who spoke candidly about their experiences. They also talked about their desire for more interesting and relevant electives, a more creative learning environment, and more counselors to help guide and support their choices.
“There should be an (Individualized Education Program) for every student,” one girl told the superintendent. “We should be able to learn at our own pace and strive on our own path.”
As the event progressed, the 175 participants were divided into 10 groups, where they sought to identify core values and beliefs that are essential to L.A. Unified. Like the earlier session with the high school kids, participants shared their personal stories and the work being done to overcome challenges at their schools.
King said the goals outlined during the breakout sessions reflected those she has heard during previous “Listen and Learn” events: support for students; restorative justice programs; respect for all; broader course offerings; adequate and equitable resources; and greater autonomy.
“And what I hear everywhere is ‘Please, please, please bring back arts and music programs,” King said, drawing applause and cheers from the crowd.
Noah Humphrey, a charismatic senior from Jefferson High, was one of three students called on at day’s end to synthesize the discussions.
“The only strategy we need is to focus on ourselves – what are we going to be?” said Humphrey, who also urged the superintendent to make sure she has the infrastructure in place to implement her long-her goals.
“A plan without support is just a suggestion,” he said.
The day ended with all of the participants gathered in the campus courtyard for a panoramic photograph, forming a “U” to symbolize the “Unified” in the District’s name and its commitment to collaboration.
“I’m not going to just hand you a plan for LAUSD, with a bunch of ‘thou shalts,’” King said. “Together, we’re going to build a plan for LAUSD. And it’s going to be a plan that we all buy in to and that we all believe in.”
Below, the ‘Listen and Learn Tour’ brought together 175 innovative stakeholders, who shared their vision on how to boost student achievement.