Pittsfield, NH

Strategic Planning and District Redesign

2011 Summer InstituteIn the fall of 2009, CSSR was invited to assist Pittsfield Middle High School to create a new vision for a student centered middle high school. This invitation came from a visionary Superintendent and was the result of a fiscal crisis that developed when a neighboring community decided that the middle high school was a poor match for their students and as a result chose to send their middle and high school students to a different school. The school district conducted a middle high school summit, facilitated by CSSR, that engaged representatives from all aspects of the community. The newly created vision that resulted allowed for making personnel decisions based on what the school could become rather than what it already was. A clear vision of the future, and strong support from CSSR, resulted in obtaining significant grant funding from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to allow the school to implement the dramatic changes called for by the vision.

Evidence of CSSR’s impact on Pittsfield’s instructional and leadership capacity can be seen in the improvement of test scores. During the last several years, Pittsfield Middle High School has seen their state test scores move them from the lowest 10% of middle and high schools in the state, to among the top in both reading and math scores. This was accomplished by Pittsfield engaging CSSR services in five key areas:

1. Student Centered Learning:

The existing advisory program was strengthened to improve academic and social/emotional support and student engagment/ownership for learning. In addition, instruction and learning practices were enhanced by professional development in authentic assessment pedagogy and the introduction of inquiry, project, and discussion-based instruction. Finally, to support personalization activities, the bell schedule was changed to facilitate the following:

  • Weekly professional development time for all teachers
  • Daily common planning time
  • Anytime, any place, any pace learning
  • Student exhibitions that are open to the whole community
  • Personal Learning Plans and Student Led Conferences (which have dramatically increased parent/guardian participation in the learning process)

2. Student Voice and Choice

A Site Council was created to govern the school and make all building level policy decisions. The Site Council includes a majority of students elected by their peers, in addition to community members and teachers. Also, students were made members of key teams, e.g. the Community Advisory Council.

3. Community Engagement

Key stakeholders from the community (faculty, students, parents/guardians, union representatives, school board members, administrators, professional staff, and community members at large – local business owners, taxpayers, etc. ) were engaged in strategic planning as part of the Community Advisory Council. Their work included: updating the district values, vision, mission and guiding principles; and forming a ‘Good-to-Great Team’ that has taken responsibility for creating a continuous improvement process for the district/school.

4. Leadership & Governance

CSSR support was provided on many fronts in this area, including:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Development of strong teams through role definition and the formal chartering of key teams
  • Creation of a logic model and operating plans to guide the district and schools in becoming highly student centered
  • Implementation of a 360ยบ Evaluation process for administrators, and professional development coaching in support of the findings
  • Redefinition of all the key roles/positions (18) in support of becoming more student centered
  • District redesign resulting in the creation of the Director of College and Career Readiness position, and the elimination of the Principal positions in favor of a Pre K-12 Dean of Instruction and a Pre K-12 Dean of Operations.
  • Enhanced hiring practices, including: establishment of new role/position standards and three new key positions; design of a new candidate evaluation process that was more efficient and effective, and utilization of the Success Factor Interview (SFI) process; as well as a leader simulation to select the best candidates.

5. Policy

CSSR assisted the school board in adjusting policies to accommodate student centered learning goals.

A key benefit of the capacity building reflected in the CSSR services outlined above is that all key stakeholders have become much more skilled in conducting and/or supporting student centered learning. Therefore as grant funding winds down, there is little doubt the positive changes realized to date are sustainable, as substantial capacity has been built at the individual, team, and organization levels.