Over the past four years, I have continued to emphasize these critical focus areas through my voting record and guidance in board meetings, work sessions, and public forums. I encourage you to watch the archived board meetings and visit my Facebook Page @TanyaforOsseo to observe my record on advancing these priorities.
Our scholars are competing for workforce and higher education opportunities with students across the globe. We must ensure our scholars are performing at the top of the global class. To accomplish this, we must address the impacts of the pandemic, make real progress in closing the achievement gap, and strengthen gifted and talented programs.
The pandemic environment has created a learning gap that has affected all scholars. Our priority must be focused on the return to academic excellence. This was a critical direction that I drove in our strategic plan – “Build and nurture a culture of achievement by providing content rich, rigorous, equitable and individualized pathways.” The focus of the coming years must be on ensuring scholars are prepared with the academic foundation that is required for all of their post-secondary choices. I believe in critically evaluating the results of the decisions made over the past two years and investing in academic supports and curriculum priorities that will return us to a path of positive academic growth in the district.
In addition to the learning loss gap for all students, the achievement gap persists. This is a complex challenge that includes selecting interventions that are proven to yield to results, strengthening parent engagement, and building community partnerships to surround students with positive support structures. At this time, we do have schools that are seeing positive results in closing achievement gaps at the building level. I have advocated for our district to prioritize continuous improvement, critically evaluate results, and share best practices while pivoting away from solutions that are failing to produce the intended results.
With challenges in learning loss and the achievement gap, it can be difficult to keep a focus on preserving and GROWING gifted and talented programing. However, the reality is that a robust and diverse gifted and talented offering will ACCELERATE the positive outcomes for scholars. This is clearly demonstrated in research that shows that developing young people’s gifts and talent areas creates improvement in ALL academic areas. We must not over-focus on supports; we must create more opportunities for scholars to demonstrate their gifts and talents across a multitude of skillset and capabilities including art, music, traditional academics, language, athletics, and more. When a young person discovers their capability and unique talent, it ignites a passion for achievement and success.
As we examine the current and future skill set requirements of the global workforce, we need to accelerate the range of curriculum offerings, enrichment programs, and language choices to best equip our scholars to compete. In a world in which scholars will graduate to work on global teams, with technology that may not yet exist, and in ways we haven’t thought of yet, we must prepare them with the foundational skills that will enable future success in all career fields.
Finally, a culture of excellence – a culture that enables ALL to THRIVE – underpins the experience of scholars each and every day. The systems of expectation, recognition, and celebration are critical to creating an environment that develops a sense of pride and accomplishment and nurtures the unique talents of each scholar. We recently updated our values, emphasizing honor, integrity, high standards, accountability, belonging, inclusion, creativity, ideas, confidence, transparency, and intrinsic value. Let’s make these REAL to create THRIVING environments for scholars, teachers, staff, and families. We will celebrate and recognize when these values are demonstrated and hold ourselves accountable.
Our district’s mission is to “inspire and prepare each and every scholar with the confidence, courage and competence to achieve their dreams; contribute to community; and engage in a lifetime of learning.” In order for this mission to be achieved, we must recognize that no two scholars are the same and that there are many paths to success. Our scholars have a variety of skill sets and passions and expanding
educational choices that nurture their capabilities will ensure each student graduates with the readiness to succeed in their next endeavor and to contribute to our community. Over my term, I have supported the review and refresh of the district’s career pathways to ensure it both met the interests of scholars and provided unique curriculum and skill-building for scholars to be prepared for the careers aligned with the pathways. The pathways offered by the district have been a core strength in the past and continue to be a point of distinction among our peer districts.
I believe we can build on this foundation with new initiatives that not only provide scholars with pathways and choices but also creates accountability and ownership in scholars for their futures. This is empowerment. Setting high standards and expectations for all scholars and creating environments that cultivate accountability and personal accomplishment develops a sense of self and a belief in one’s own potential. I have and will continue to advocate for the implementation of individual goal setting for all scholars. When scholars can visualize and describe their future, articulate their current skills and capabilities, identify areas for growth, they can define actionable steps toward achieving their dreams. With ongoing goals and the development of future plans and aspirations, scholars can see their growth and take pride in the work they are doing now to reach their futures. There are many established programs at districts across the nation that provide examples of implementing goal setting for scholars.
I also believe we can create and connect to mentorship programs to achieve a vision of 100% Mentorship for All Scholars. Our community is filled with individuals who are asking, “How can I help?” and want to share their skills and experiences to empower and encourage scholars, while connecting them into networks that will support scholars’ future career and educational aspirations. We can organize our community partnerships around a single mission of achievement to leverage our shared resources for the benefit of all scholars.
Parent engagement is an essential ingredient to a thriving district and to each individual scholar. Parents must be viewed as a critical partner to educators and to our educational systems. Our schools work hard to engage parents and families in their school cultures and in building relationships with teachers and staff. As a district, we can do more to support this with meaningful initiatives that educate parents and integrate families into the culture of excellence we are striving to create. I believe every single parent wants to see their child succeed and participate in the educational success of their scholar. This can look different for each parent yet achieve the same goal in supporting scholars. We can establish new ways of bringing parents into expectation and goal setting for scholars. We can build on the technology platforms to engage in relationship building and connection with families. And we must certainly always include them in both the recognition of their scholar’s success and in the intervention of behavior and discipline areas.
Many parents have expressed the desire to be more greatly engaged in their child’s education in all areas – including improved access to curriculum, understanding their scholar’s day to day activities and classroom participation, to supporting and encouraging successful behaviors at home. There is a great opportunity right now with our new strategic plan to immediately engage parents differently this to create the culture of excellence and to nurture our scholars’ unique potential and capabilities through the school environment.
Finally, parents are asking to be engaged in the challenges we face. I have advocated for transparency and engagement in the very difficult environments that developed and persisted this past year due to behavior issues. Parents were asking for help for their scholar, teachers were asking for help, and it was not brought to the board agenda. I believe we must do better to create environments for all to thrive and that parents are part of the solutions. Some difficult realities I heard from parents included “there are days my son doesn’t want to go to school because he knows there will be a fight,” “My daughter has anxiety about going to school because she doesn’t know what might happen in her classroom that day,” and “We aren’t seeing a change in our classroom behaviors, and we don’t know what more we can do.” Parents, teachers, and staff members have spoken at school board meetings and emailed about the challenges they are observing in some of our buildings. Some staff have indicated they are not receiving the support they need to run their classrooms effectively. No scholar, teacher, staff member, or volunteer should ever feel their school is an unsafe place to be. The strategic plan includes the strategic direction “Create safe, welcoming, and inclusive learning environments that foster global curiosity, belonging, innovation and engagement,” and the words “nurture a culture of academic achievement.” We are currently falling short. As a board member, I have continually requested we bring a transparent discussion to the issues and that parents must be engaged in transparent work to improve school climates where necessary. This must be prioritized, and we must act in response to the voices of our scholars, parents, and staff members.
Accountability & Transparency
Accountability and Transparency as a Culture
Through my professional career in organizational transformation and change, I have developed the strong belief in full accountability and uncomfortable transparency. Leaders who avoid challenges, attempt to control messages, and fear sharing problems are not leaders. I have seen leaders and organizational fail because of a fear of disclosing problems. A culture of excellence cannot be created without a culture of accountability and transparency.
We must create a new system that embraces constructive feedback and the identification of problems and pair it with a system that rewards solution-generation and innovation. Problems that are not brought forward cannot be solved. As an organization, we need to become open and welcoming to feedback about improvement needs, initiatives that aren’t working, and failures in processes. We need to encourage solutions, ideas, and thought leadership. We have highly experienced educators, staff members, and leaders that have tremendous capabilities that are untapped. It’s time to develop a system that will bring tap into the power of this talent.
Accountability and Transparency in Fiscal Stewardship
I believe that a district’s ability to run efficiently and effectively is a critical foundation for success. When we demonstrate that we are good stewards of taxpayer and community resources, we can unlock private and public partnerships that benefit our students and our community. I believe each financial decision must be made with the goal of providing a superior educational return on our stakeholders’ investment. In this work, we must continually and proactively communicate the decisions made, the financial choices available, and the results accomplished to our stakeholders and to our communities.
As a community member with over twenty years of business, finance, and consultative experience, I have made it a priority to continue our district’s record of recognized operational and financial excellence. I have critically analyzed budget and funding decisions through both a scholar outcome and financial investment lens. My goal is to ensure we continue to invest in programs and practices that are proven to deliver improved academic outcomes while quickly pivoting away from initiatives that fail to deliver as expected. Further, I believe that we should test and learn, or pilot, to effectively evaluate new initiatives before large investment decisions are considered.
Whether we are in strong or lean financial environments, I will always make choices that are fiscally responsible and maximize the benefit to our students.
Moving Forward Together
We have many strengths as a district, and we are working to recognize and build upon them. At the same time, to continue to serve our scholars and communities, we must recognize our areas of improvement. We can always strive to improve, and we must do so through ensuring every voice is heard, creating a culture of transparent problem-solving, and developing an openness to new solutions and innovation. Let’s come together to do this every single day for every single scholar. As a board member, I have incorporated these priorities into the strategic plan, into guidance to district priorities, and in my voting record. I have and will continue to invest in understanding our changing scholars’ needs and creating new opportunities that will meet and accelerate pathways for success now and in the future.