New District 205 planning document has an eye on the future

Plan subject to revision as unknowns come into sharper focus

(District 205 video)

ELMHURST – With technology and other cultural forces at play, the world as we know it is changing at a more rapid pace than ever before.

This reality is at the heart of a recently unveiled series of documents that chart the course for future decisions within and outside the classroom at Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205.

Elmhurst school administrators dug into a so-called draft operational plan that looks at how the district will sharpen the focus of 21st Century teaching techniques in an era where electronic devices are frequently carrying more weight than traditional textbooks and paper-and-pencil methods.

Superintendent David Moyer said the comprehensive plan looks at a number of areas of the modern educational arena, including efforts designed to challenge students throughout their K-12 experience and ensure they are adequately prepared for life after walking across the graduation isle.

In a big picture sense, Moyer said the plan in its current state touches on what he referred to as the six C’s: critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, character and citizenship.

“We don’t need students to be good at school,” Moyer said of the philosophy behind the plan. “We need them to be successful after school.”

In the initial rollout, Elmhurst’s operational plan will cover a three-year span of time, kicking off this fall and running through the 2019-20 school year.

Moyer said long-term planning can be challenging, particularly as technology continues to upend the labor market. Jobs could look vastly different once today’s kindergartener earns his or her high school diploma in 13 years.

The operations plan is expected to further emphasize contemporary topics and concepts already at play in many of Elmhurst’s classrooms.

For example, it points to the benefits of Makerspace, a collaborative movement that puts persons’ skills and talents into a large collective setting. Makerspace came to Elmhurst schools, via the libraries, through a District 205 Foundation grant.

The document also places a growing emphasis of curriculum under the STEM umbrella, which includes science, technology, engineering and math.

Further big-picture refinements could take place beyond the first three years of the plan’s implementation into the classroom setting.

Throughout the recent discussion, the word “draft” was used frequently to emphasize how the plans within the documents are subject to revision because of a disparate array of outside forces, ranging from technological innovation to the state’s budget.

“This is clearly something that is going to evolve over time,” Moyer said. “We want this to be a living, breathing document that will be helpful to teachers in the classroom. There is some fluidity and flexibility built into this.”

The plan came together after a series of efforts, including a top-down analysis of how the district currently operates and a community engagement exercise through the broader Focus 205 effort.

School Board members overall were pleased with the details shared at their most recent meeting, held July 18.

“We’ve been asking for this,” board member Karen Stuefen said. “It’s nice to have it encapsulated. This is a great vehicle for having this all in one place.”

During the School Board meeting, officials also approved two separate settlement agreements with the Elmhurst Teacher’s Council, the local bargaining unit representing district educators.

The first settlement, in the amount of $27,831, was designed to clear up ambiguity in contract language concerning teacher advancement and corresponding pay.

The second settlement concerned middle school teachers and alleged incorrect payment related to basketball scorebook and scorecard responsibilities. The amount totaled $2,445.