Engaging Communities and Stakeholders in SWIFT Visioning Process

Michael Tursi, Superintendent of SWIFT partner schools in Milton and Wakefield, New Hampshire, tells us how he engaged communities and stakeholders in the SWIFT visioning practice. When asked about his strategies, he had this to say:

I wanted to approach this process differently. The common practice is for a committee to develop vision and/or mission statements in seclusion, after which it sits on a shelf, and is attached to a letterhead.  I wanted to develop a vision that the community owns. The community should have an opportunity to provide input regarding the kind of education they want for their children.
Over the course of a year, I held community forums where I asked, “What aspirations do we, as a community, have for our students beyond graduation?”  I put all of my notes into one Word document–including repeated words–to create a Wordle. I then drafted a preliminary vision statement based on the most frequently used words. This draft vision statement was then vetted through the schools’ Professional Learning Community, the Curriculum and Instruction Teams (school leadership teams), and the Focused Support Team (a district leadership team), as well as shared with the school board.

All of those teams were asked to review the Wordle and choose their favorite words and craft statements that included these words. These statements were then subjected to another round with all groups, with the community, and finally brought to the school board for a final vote. Once that was done, each of the school’s vision statements that were developed for the five SWIFT domains was aligned with the overall district vision statement, as developed and owned by the community.

SWIFT has provided a venue for conversation prompting questions we always want to be asking our educators.  The five domains are our key focus areas that enable our work to ultimately coalesce. Partnering with SWIFT also engages us in a larger conversation as part of the national work where we network to cross borders and tie good ideas together.

-Michael Tursi