Warsaw Community Schools
Warsaw Community Schools
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The Challenge

For the residents of Kosciusko County, Warsaw Community Schools (WCS) serves as the community’s public square. It’s a place that welcomes and celebrates families from all backgrounds, a place that businesses turn to when they need a trusted partner, and a place where community members come together to create the best possible future for Warsaw students.

The strength of WCS is its people and their proactive commitment to their students’ success. “Everything we do is centered around our students,” says Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert. That same commitment is evident in WCS’s history of five-year strategic planning. By prioritizing a common set of goals and aligning operations and resources for half a decade at a time, WCS has been able to set its sights on ambitious outcomes and achieve great things as a school community—including multiple STEM certifications, an integrated social-emotional learning curriculum, and an innovative career center.

In order to create a new five-year strategic plan with their students at its core, WCS wanted to engage the current school community in co-creating the final outcome. The new plan needed to better reach growing and underserved populations, be on the forefront of educating for new job markets, attract and retain students from other communities, and ultimately, inspire all students, teachers, and community members to realize their dreams.

Read WCS’s 2021-2025 Strategic Plan

Through this project, we were able to better communicate with our stakeholders and create a plan that would inspire students to pursue their dreams while better preparing them for their futures.”

– KRISTA POLSTON, GRANTS & SPECIAL PROJECTS COORDINATOR

The Approach

To include school stakeholders as active participants in the process, SmallBox began with six months of community listening. We toured schools to experience the facilities and curriculum firsthand and were welcomed into neighborhoods to learn directly from the diverse communities WCS serves. We had meaningful conversations with students, teachers, parents, business & nonprofit leaders, and residents who shared their personal insights, stories, and experiences. We also convened groups of stakeholders to co-design the future they wanted for Warsaw students.

From all the ideas and insights, SmallBox and Warsaw Community Schools identified four distinct (and mission-aligned) strategic plan pillars:

  • Empathy: students will foster the ability to compassionately understand and share the feelings of another person.
  • Adaptability: students will develop a set of abilities that enable them to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of life.
  • Inclusivity: schools will cultivate inclusive learning environments—through policies, programs, practices, and procedures—that welcome, celebrate, and empower all students.
  • Experience: schools will provide hands-on learning experiences that have real-world implications—bringing experiences into the classroom and challenging students to go outside of their comfort zones.

In addition to approving these pillars, community stakeholders were asked to collectively define their desired outcomes—shared destinations that WCS will advance toward over the next five years.

These pillars have life in them and bring exciting opportunities. This project allowed us to step out of the day to day and start focusing on the bigger picture”

– HEATHER REICHENBACK, WCS BOARD PRESIDENT

To achieve big ideas and visionary goals, there must also be coordinated action. After determining the four main pillars for the strategic plan, SmallBox facilitated a retreat of  40+ stakeholders to determine each pillar’s roadmap. We collaboratively defined the strategies needed to bring each outcome to life, and stakeholders worked together to define the tactics and key performance metrics to ensure their success.

SmallBox was very focused on an end goal. The entire process had rhyme and reason.”

– DR. DAVID HOFFERT, SUPERINTENDENT

To stay on track over the next 5 years, we developed an oversight process that includes semiannual community listening sessions and recalibration. This way, WCS can ensure continuous improvement, managing necessary change based on student, staff, and community feedback.

The Result

Now that WCS has begun the important work of moving its four strategic plan pillars forward, the immediate effects are already evident:

  • Shared vision and desired outcomes: WCS established shared strategic plan goals, outcomes, key performance metrics
  • A plan representative of the school community: a diverse group of community members, business leaders, and nonprofit visionaries worked together to move into action
  • Commitment to ongoing engagement: a plan to continuously learn from community members as the next five years unfold

Our developed strategies are pushing the envelope and causing our teams to think differently about education and our actions for the next 5 years.”

– KRISTA POLSTON, GRANTS & SPECIAL PROJECTS COORDINATOR