By Stephen Walker
Superintendent of Schools
Croton-Harmon Union Free School District
Every one of us has been to school. We have the shared experience of having been to Kindergarten, to Third Grade, and to High School. And for all of us, memories of time spent in school have helped to shape who we are as people, how we see ourselves, and how we engage with the world. Yet I believe that, even for those among us who loved school, we also all share a common understanding – that school, regardless of our alma mater, can be better.
School can be a place where people come together to glimpse their future; where all learners, both students and adults, feel inspired; and where igniting curiosity about the world is the greatest gift that we can share with our community’s young people. School can be a place where children see themselves represented in what they explore – their interests, their backgrounds, and their passions. School can be a place of potential.
In Croton-Harmon, we believe that there is no more important time to dream, to envision “What School Can Be.” We believe that schools should elevate us, they should inspire us, and they should make us believe that the joy of learning isn’t a byproduct of great schools, it is the reason for school itself.
And over the past year, members of our school district’s staff, joined by members of this special community, worked together to create a new Strategic Plan, something different than any other Strategic Plan I’ve ever seen, and something worthy of this moment, worthy of our schools, and worthy of all of us. It reflects the dreams, the vision, the passion, and the joyful optimism that makes our schools unique. It is a commitment, a promise to our community, to engage in work that isn’t aimed to “do school better.” Instead, it is a promise to “make school better.”
We have named it a Vision Map, and it is centered on a vision of schools where the learning experiences are based on the interests and passions of our amazing Tiger students, and of the phenomenal people who work with them. It is centered on a vision of schools where we ignite inspiration and curiosity among all our learners, both the children and the adults. And it is centered on a vision for schools which cultivate an environment which prioritizes connection, belonging, and thoughtful risk-taking, and which truly values the voice of every one of our colleagues. It is ambitious, audacious, and sweeping. And I am not exaggerating when I say that it represents the most visionary, creative, optimistic, and important work that I have ever been a part of in my career in education.
Over the days and weeks to come, I hope that we will have the chance to look into this Vision Map together as a community. You can find it on our website at chufsd.org, and I can be reached to talk about it at email@example.com.
I also invite you to take a few minutes to watch the most recent Superintendent Video Update, during which I share a few specific examples of how this is coming to life in our classrooms. And as we explore the Vision Map together, I ask you this: let’s look at what that document represents, and the journey of “making school better,” as our opportunity to create the kind of schools that we all wanted to experience, but didn’t know were possible.
Thank you for being the kind of community partners that create the conditions for our schools to become beacons, models, and examples of “What School Can Be.”