WAPS strategic plan focuses on individual needs, systemic changes

WAPS Strategic Plan 2022

Winona Area Public Schools has a roadmap for the future — one that focuses on systemic changes to support individual needs. 

The WAPS school board on Sept. 1 approved the district’s strategic plan, which will cover the 2022-27 school years. The plan is the result of a collaborative process led by the Minnesota School Board Association that included input from district leaders, staff, students, families and community members. 

It includes updated mission and vision statements and core values, as well as district belief statements. The plan settled on five strategic focus areas, as well as goals and objectives to support those focus areas. 

“What we learned through this process is that there are many people invested in our school district,” WAPS Superintendent Dr. Annette K. Freiheit said. “They want to see us do well for our students, for our staff and for our community. Using their feedback and ideas, we worked together to formulate a plan that sets a high standard for our students while putting the systems in place that can support their continued growth inside and outside of the classroom.”

The new mission of Winona Area Public Schools is to “Inspire curiosity, empower resiliency, engage community.” The vision is: “A safe and inclusive community of compassionate, curious and resilient lifelong learners.”

The district core values are safety, integrity, inclusivity, equity and respect. 

For the first time, the district also identified belief statements. Gail Gilman, Director of Strategic Planning and Board Leadership for MSBA, told the board: “As you come to those tough decisions, that juncture in the road, a good rule of thumb is for your chair to say ‘Let’s go back to those belief statements and let those help guide us.’”

They are: 

  • We believe that public schools should serve and engage students, families, staff and the community.
  • We believe learning and teaching is maximized in a safe, respectful and inclusive environment.
  • We believe every individual’s diversity and experience is valued.
  • We believe healthy relationships are crucial for the success of our schools.
  • We believe that every student can achieve to the best of their ability.
  • We believe all decisions should be focused on students and their success.

The five strategic plan focus areas include:

  • Excellence in Student Achievement
  • Student Support
  • Staff Support 
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity
  • Communication, Outreach and Marketing

Many of the goals listed under the focus areas involve systemic changes meant to address the unique needs of students, staff and families. 

The excellence in student achievement focus area calls for the full implementation of Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) in every classroom and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) throughout the district by the start of the 2025-2026 school year. 

For student support, the district will “create a safe, inclusive learning environment that focuses on personal well-being and fosters the ability to create positive relationships.” This will include finalizing a district-wide code of conduct that supports student behavior and incorporates restorative practices by February 2023.

To support staff, WAPS plans an operational audit to discontinue work that no longer aligns with the strategic plan, and make staff development and evaluations address evidence-based practices and cultural awareness. 

Under the diversity, equity and inclusivity focus area, WAPS will strive to provide all children with culturally relevant learning opportunities that include a multi-year professional development plan for all staff and school board members that includes addressing implicit bias, anti-discrimination, exclusionary language and behavior, eliminating racial harm and reucing disparities. The district has set a goal to eliminate barriers to learning by identifying and redesigning systems that reinforce academic gaps among student groups. 

The communications, outreach and marketing focus area involves the creation of district-wide and building-specific community engagement plans, as well as a refresh of the WAPS brand identity. 

The strategic planning process included the voices of nearly 500 people through surveys (100 internal surveys and 380 external surveys). There were 90 people who participated in 13 listening sessions, as well as a strategic planning committee which was made up of 25 individuals who met three times and continued to offer feedback as the plan was finalized.