Superintendent Michelle King held the first in a series of meetings designed to promote open dialogues in school communities around her recently released strategic plan to move all students to graduation. Hosted last week at Vista Middle School in Panorama City, the event was attended by 240 students, parents, teachers, administrators, employees and community partners representing Northeast San Fernando Valley neighborhoods.

Students, parents, teachers, administrators and others held dialogues about what the strategic plan meant to them and the roles they play in education.

“We are excited to have our first community, parent, student, and educator engagement around our Strategic Plan,” King said. “We’re working together to focus on our mission and vision and have an opportunity to have really important dialogue about what the various elements mean to us and the roles we play on our students’ education.”

King outlined the goals in her three-year Strategic Plan, which is built on the goal of 100 percent graduation. She then introduced a panel of speakers: Julia Potter, director for strategic partnerships and special initiatives at California State University Northridge; Local District Northeast Superintendent Linda Del Cueto; and senior Patricia Huelgas from Van Nuys Senior High School Math Science Technology Magnet.

“In conversations I’ve been having, it’s become clear that a lot of students aren’t familiar with their individualized graduation plans,” Huelgas said. “So, one of the things we’re working on is how we can work with our parents, our teachers and our counselors to help more students understand what they need to do to be ready to graduate.”

Del Cueto built on the student’s comments saying it was her team’s goal to promote awareness and understanding of the Strategic Plan into every school.

“Our job is to help every student, every parent and employee use this as a guide every day,” she said. “We need to make sure that what it takes to graduate from high school and go on to college and be successful isn’t a mystery. Ensuring that everyone has a clear understanding of what it takes is the first critical step toward destination: graduation.”

Senior Patricia Huelgas from Van Nuys Senior High School Math Science Technology Magnet served a panelist for the first community engagement meeting around the District’s strategic plan.

During a public forum, a parent named Audrey, whose children attend Ranchito Elementary School in Panorama City, spoke about her efforts to carry on her mother’s legacy of parental engagement.

“It wasn’t easy for a women who had five kids and didn’t speak a word of English,” she said of her experience as a student in L.A. Unified schools. “But, my mother took the time to be involved, to read to us every night, to attend parent meetings, open houses and to volunteer her time. Her concern for what we were learning made all the difference in the world for us, and it’s what I strive to do with my daughters today. I encourage all parents here to do the same, and that’s how we’ll make a difference.”

King detailed several examples of the District’s efforts to foster parent and community engagement. She mentioned the L.A. Promise — a partnership with Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti — which provides graduates with a year’s tuition to a Los Angeles community college. She also promoted the Parent Access Support System Portal (PASSport), a new online tool parents can use to obtain data securely on their children’s attendance, grades and other information in real time.

Vista Middle School Principal Joe Nardulli said the Strategic Plan aligns with what is taking place daily in his classrooms.

“We understand in middle school that it’s not just about getting students to that culminating point at the end of eighth grade. It’s about understanding that how well they do in middle school sets the stage for their potential success in high school and beyond. Continuing to have opportunities like this to speak together, to hear ideas and make plans for the future will help keep us focused on the path to 100 percent graduation.”

The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight at the Dr. Julian Nava Learning Academy, and will focus on communities south of Downtown Los Angeles.