RSF School District is drafting a new strategic plan

R. Roger Rowe School.
(Karen Billing)

Process will involve community focus groups in the fall


The Rancho Santa Fe School District is setting off on a new strategic planning effort, hoping to identify the district’s values, goals and mission statement that will shape its new plan.

The first step in the district’s Strategic Design Committee’s process was gathering input through a survey of students, parents and teachers. At the board’s June 7 meeting, they heard the results of the survey, presented by Clerk Kali Kim and Jeremy Owen, the district’s director of special education.

Owen said the survey provided insights on what the community is talking about and what is most important to them, which will help to establish the district’s values.

“Once we have established those shared values then it’s easy to take the next step to start drafting what our vision is for the school and what our mission and purpose is,” Owen said.

“The real work will start in the fall,” Kim said, noting the Strategic Design Committee plans to host several focus and discussion groups to further clarify those district values. The values, vision statement and mission statement will go through several iterations, with the goal to be approved by the board in December.

The survey was conducted online, asking participants about the overall experience at R. Roger Rowe, learning and priorities for the future. Students in grades 4-8 were invited to respond and had a 92% participation rate. The survey was also offered to teachers and parents with lower participation—the staff response rate was 67% and of the 368 total families invited to participate, only 137 or 37% did.

Overall, 87% of students and 80% of adults were highly satisfied or satisfied with the school.

Disaggregated results showed parents were 87% satisfied or highly satisfied; elementary teachers were 78.8% and middle school staff was 50% satisfied or highly satisfied.

Students most described Rowe School as fun, helpful, kind and safe.

Students and parents were mostly in agreement with the most important aspects of learning: math, reading, and writing, while parents placed a higher emphasis on science.

Elementary school students were most satisfied with reading and arts enrichment classes and least satisfied with engineering (65%); adults were most satisfied with PE and social studies and least satisfied with science (76%).

At the middle school levels, students were most satisfied with independent study PE (99%), team sports and arts electives and least satisfied with engineering/coding (69%).

Middle school adults were least satisfied in math (73%) but gave high marks to student council, science electives and history/social studies.

The survey posed an open-ended question about what students, staff and parents wanted to see for the future of the school.

The majority of students wanted to see improvements in the classroom such as more electives, advanced classes, field trips, hands-on projects, outdoor learning and learning experiences like Science Discovery Day. Some asked for fewer rules (particularly around the dress code) but some wanted to see more supervision at recess and impactful discipline for “kids who disrespect other kids.”.

As far as their social goals for the school they wanted to see a Stop Bullying club, the implementation of a buddy system, mental health support and more opportunities to make connections with each other.

”I think it is important that schools will continue to be a welcoming and friendly place,” wrote one seventh grader. “I would love if some of the courses we take would help us learn some more things for later in life.”

Adults wanted to see improvements in instruction/curriculum, leadership, the school climate and social and emotional learning.

They wanted to see the school focus on things like high standards and expectations, excellent and supported teachers, creative and individualized learning, social skills and an environment of fun and innovation. Like the students, they were interested in anti-bullying as well as creating a positive student culture that develops the three R’s: Responsibility, Respect and Resiliency.

“I believe that striking a happy medium between academic growth and social/emotional growth is incredibly important,” wrote one parent. “Coming out of the uncertainty of the pandemic years, I think having a safe place to learn and grow could not be more important.”

RSF School Board President Jee Manghani said the survey results were helpful as it gives a good idea of what kids and teachers are thinking, however, ideally he would like to see more than a third of parents respond. With the fall’s focus groups, Manghani said it’s important to make sure they are reaching the other two-thirds of parents who did not weigh in.

For Trustee John Tree, it was also important that the survey is actionable and that they implement things they learn so it’s more than just a “pretty survey.”

Kim agreed that outreach, involvement, feedback and community building will be important as they develop the mission, vision and strategic plan for the future.

“We want to have as much involvement as we can get because you need to have buy-in for it to work,” Kim said. “If you don’t have any buy-in then all of this is for naught.”