Russellville City Schools employs A+ tactics for executing the district’s strategic plan
Russellville City Schools (RCS) is an amazing city school system centrally located in Franklin County, Alabama. The district boasts 4 schools, 2500+ students and a mission to pursue excellence and make an impact in the lives of its students, its community and our world.
Over the past 30 years, Russellville City Schools has been facing a growing number of challenges, making strategic planning imperative. Changing demographics, growing poverty and aging facilities meant a new focus was needed to support better outcomes for all students. Today, Russellville City Schools is managing its first strategic plan in Envisio, helping to drive sharp operational focus towards achieving the district’s inspiring mission:
“RCS will be recognized as a leader in our state for excellence in academic growth. We will reach all students through relationships, character building and strong community involvement, while providing first class facilities, technologies and engaging educational experiences.”
The district’s first strategic plan addresses change
Dr. Tim Guinn, Assistant Superintendent, described some of the sensitive changes facing the Russellville City Schools District:
“We had zero percent Latino students in our school system in 1990. Now in 2019, we are right at 50 percent coming from Latin America. Many come to us with no formal education from the rural areas of countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, each with different cultures, perspectives and expectations. They don’t understand what a constitution is and many of our students cannot read or write in their native Spanish. Research tells us it takes about seven years for a child from a foreign country to catch up to their American peers.”
The challenges facing Russellville City Schools go well beyond planning for language and cultural changes. Poverty is pervasive, with 74% of students belonging to families below the poverty line. And the four schools in the district are nearing maximum capacity, with 2537 students and little funding to upgrade and expand their antiquated facilities.
How can they ensure the best educational experience for all their students?
When Russellville City Schools welcomed Mr. Heath Grimes as the district’s new Superintendent, they gained a leader dedicated to visioning, strategic planning and achieving better student outcomes. He initiated the development of the district’s first strategic plan with a collaborative spirit.
“At RCS, we are committed to the education of each and every one of our students in areas that will affect them both inside and outside the classroom,” said Heath. “More than a year ago we began working with local educators, community members and stakeholders to develop a strategic plan for our system that outlined specific goals we have for our system as a whole.”
RCS engaged the community in a variety of ways to uncover local priorities. They started the process with a 15-member strategic planning committee. RCS held two focus groups and surveyed over 1,000 residents. Community input helped the committee to develop the Russellville City Schools Strategic Plan. The pillars of this inspiring plan go well beyond academic excellence, to include fostering the character development of students, with lessons about inclusion, charity, compassion, teamwork and being good citizens.
After spreadsheets, it was love at first sight with Envisio
Superintendents face daily competing priorities from staff, teachers, parents and students, making it challenging to focus on their strategic plan. Initial attempts at RCS to manage and execute the new strategic plan in spreadsheets proved ineffective. Tim described the limitations of spreadsheets:
“Once we completed the plan, we actually tried to track it ourselves in an Excel spreadsheet. It was really nice and pretty, but the problem was we couldn’t communicate with each other. We couldn’t run reports. We didn’t have a dashboard. It was near impossible to manage the plan. I have to give credit to Natalie Bendall, one of our Assistant Principals, who found Envisio. We just fell in love with it.”
Tim shared three ways that RCS is using Envisio to effectively execute their strategic plan, improve organizational performance, communicate with stakeholders, and ultimately drive better outcomes for students:
Tactic 1 – Foster alignment with cascade planning
Today, Envisio is home to the Russellville City Schools Strategic Plan. A centralized planning and cascading framework helps define, align and execute the strategic and operational plans in one place. The plan starts at the top with five strategic priorities.
- Provide engaging experiences by offering a myriad of opportunities to ensure student academic growth and character development.
- Provide collaborative opportunities for building relationships within the school community.
- Maintain highly qualified personnel through recruiting, training, and growing employees.
- Prioritize use of resources to efficiently and effectively achieve student success while maintaining adequate reserves.
- Maintain an environment that complements the system’s overarching mission and vision.