A plan for success in the workplace

HARLINGEN — The capacity for change is vital for success in today’s workforce.

Therefore, change is a vital part of the Harlingen school district’s Strategic Plan which was released in 2014. The plan, “Transforming Learning For Global Achievement,” is filled with strategies to prepare students for a rapidly changing work place. The rapid advancement of technology and the need for quick problem-solving skills make today’s work place more challenging than ever.

New arrivals into that work place must have the ability to improvise, innovate, and adjust the way they approach new challenges. The Strategic Plan details the manner in which they will be taught those skills.

The plan, subtitled “Inspiring Learners for Lifetime Success,” was created by a 35-member committee. The committee drafted the plan with the input of more than 800 members of the community, including staff members, students, and parents.

It was composed to serve as a tool for developing the district during the next few years.

Superintendent Art Cavazos says it speaks to some very specific areas of education. Those include the development of a curriculum which emphasizes preparation for postsecondary education and endorsements.

The redesign, or transformation, of the secondary experience refers to the education of students in grades 6 – 12.

Administrators often refer to specific items in the plan, such as the digital learning initiative, as pieces. The digital learning initiative allows students to use digital devices and has emphasized the many ways iPhones, iPads and tablets can be used in class work. Another piece is project-based learning in which students work together on projects.

So many pieces are included in the plan they form a sort of puzzle. Like that puzzle, each piece in the Strategic Plan has a specific place from which it performs a crucial function. Each function affects the entire puzzle, ensuring it works properly. Thus the very nature of the Strategic Plan speaks to the importance of collaboration, one of the 4 Cs. Those 4 Cs, which also include communication, creativity, and critical thinking, are an integral part of the plan.

Alicia Noyola, chief academic officer for the district, explained in detail when the Strategic Plan was released what the redesign meant. Work on the redesign, she said, was already in the process when the Strategic Planning Committee began developing its work in September 2014.

“When we’re talking about redesign, we looked at three different pieces that kind of led us to look at what we needed to do with our high schools,” she said. “What were some of the things that needed to be different?”

One of those pieces was the implementation of House Bill 5, she said. The bill, passed in 2013, allowed for the creation of five “endorsements,” multiple pathways to graduation. These new pathways include either trade classes or coursework which prepares students for college.

Another piece, Noyola said, was the design of Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy, which was divided into five separate schools. The redesign of the other campuses will be modeled after Cano Academy.

“It did not make sense for our students to receive one type of learning experience at ninth grade and then have something completely different at high school,” Noyola said at the time.

The third piece in the redesign was the Strategic Planning process. The redesign was affected by input from members of the community, teachers and focus groups.

“We just had a tremendous amount of response,” Noyola said. “In those responses, we got a lot of feedback on what our graduates needed to look like. What were the skills that our graduates needed to have, and what were the skills that our graduates needed to have when they left our high schools.”

The Strategic Planning Committee also developed six principles to facilitate the redesign of the high schools. Those six principles also include a technology-rich environment and collaborative learning among students.

Another principle, Noyola said, is the creation of a professional learning community.

“When we talk about creating professional learning communities at our high schools, we’re talking about our teachers also working together,” she said. “We take the best that every teacher has to offer, to plan the very best lessons that our kids can receive.”

Strategic Plan Overview

The HCISD strategic plan, “Transforming Learning for Global Achievement,” works as a tool for school district leadership to plan the next three to five years of development. The plan was developed as a result of five months of information gathering from over 800 strategically selected individuals to represent all of the various subgroups of HCISD stakeholders, including staff members, students, parents, and community members through focus groups, surveys, and planning committees.

Strategic Planning Goals

Goal 1

We will create a transformed school district that ensures high quality instruction and individualized learning, resulting in maximum achievement for all students.

Goal 2

We will attract, develop, and retain highly effective educators and provide the tools they need to maximize all students’ success.

Goal 3

We will improve the learning experience by using data that measures all students’ weaknesses and strengths in order to address their curricular needs.

Goal 4

We will develop an individualized learning plan for all students that will assess results at specific intervals to ensure post-secondary and career readiness is achieved.

Goal 5

We will increase the efficiency of communication between teachers, parents, and students to achieve the district’s goal of meeting all students’ educational needs.