Entering his second school year as the leader of the Rancho Santa Fe School District, Superintendent David Jaffe has his eyes focused on the future and on setting up an action plan for the continuous growth.
As he announced in spring, Jaffe plans to take the district through a “self-study” process modeled after the WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation process that high schools, charter and private schools are required to go through. Jaffe has assisted in 13 different WASC processes and has led three. He also completed his own WASC reports during his time as principal at Torrey Pines High School and Canyon Crest Academy.
The ultimate goal would be an action plan with measurable goals that the district can use to guide its decision-making within the organization.
“Our challenge in this district is that we have high-performing students and we have really strong teachers, how do we get better?” Jaffe said. “Until we know exactly where we are, getting better is more difficult. This process allows us to do that.”
Through the process, Jaffe is looking to develop a “culture of collaboration” at the school and create a common language between all stakeholders. Staff and stakeholders will review 12 different areas of the curriculum, including math, English language arts, science, special education, robotics, athletics, academic acceleration and intervention.
For each curricular area, the plan will establish goals for strengthening curriculum, instruction and assessment.
“We have solid curriculum and teachers in place but there are areas to strengthen,” Jaffe said. “Individually the teachers all do great things in terms of how they deliver instruction but collectively they could improve that even more.”
Jaffe plans to gather meaningful parent, student and staff input through focus groups, a parent advisory group and surveys of students in grades 4-8. Jaffe would like to present the process to the staff on Aug. 23 with group staff meetings held every Monday through October.
The action plan would be presented for review and adoption at the Dec. 7 board meeting.
Coming off of the successful process of crafting a strategic plan for the arts, some of the RSF School board members were concerned about the amount of staff time that would be spent on the process.
Board member Tyler Seltzer reiterated his concerns about staff time being involved in process as well as the implementation.
“I’m not saying that it’s not valuable information, but that’s a lot of time,” said Seltzer of staff evaluating all 12 different curriculum areas. “My concern is that we come back with a giant to-do list that’s got 200 action items on it and not that’s not valuable to have, but it is daunting for the staff.”
Jaffe said reviewing the 12 curriculum areas would be built into the professional collaboration that is already happening weekly.
“It makes the collaboration time intentional and the ultimate work that comes from this makes all future collaboration time directed and intentional,” Jaffe said.
Board member Scott Kahn said he shared Seltzer’s concern that the process was a little bit like “boiling the ocean.”
“It would be nice to see some priority,” said Kahn, noting he would like to see the baseline of where they are and what they are aiming toward as a district. “Having prioritization and focus provides an enormous benefit.”
Board member Sarah Neal agreed, stating her desire for a board workshop where the members can re-evaluate their values, vision and set district goals for the coming year. She would like to see them all work together as a leadership team, the board and superintendent together.
“We need to do some work upfront to absolutely review our vision and values as a district and make sure we’re setting that baseline of what we stand for, what are we improving toward,” Neal said. “Otherwise it kind of is boiling the ocean.”
One R. Roger Rowe teacher said it did make sense to look at all 12 curriculum areas at the same time rather than picking out priorities. She said the areas tend to trickle together. “When you look at math, you’re looking at accelerated programs or how math works into visual arts. They all connect with one another,” she said. “So if you don’t look at all of them, you miss parts and pieces and create a deficit. They do need to be looked at altogether, all a connected whole.”
Jaffe agreed, noting that the power of the process isn’t in the first set of goals but in the organizations coming together and looking at systems and how they keep improving as a group.
“Board policy states that the superintendent needs to do an evaluation of the programs on a yearly basis,” Jaffe said. “So part of the work is in looking at the organization overall. To tell you that one needs more than the other without teachers coming together is hard to determine.”
Jaffe plans to present the process to parents the week of Sept. 11, prior to forming the parent advisory committee.