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The School Bell by Cindy Zahrte: Strategic Planning for the Betterment of All

The School Bell by Cindy Zahrte: Strategic Planning for the Betterment of All


In September I shared with you the vision, mission and values of the Tomah Area School District, which are laid out in our district strategic plan. The vision and mission of our school district state where the organization is going (provide excellent academics and co-curriculars that develop life-long learning skills for all students) and what it will do to get there (high-quality student learning − every child, every day). The values (innovation, integrity, respect, passion, leadership) are really our code of ethics and define how we will behave in our interactions with one another, our students, families, and community.

The vision, mission and values of our school district help to properly align the resources of our school district and to establish the pillars of excellence which we believe must be a focus of our work if our school district is to improve. The Tomah Area School District has five Pillars of Excellence:

Student achievement: We will prepare our students to succeed each year and in their future post-secondary education and the career of their choice.

Workforce engagement: We will attract and retain and continuously develop highly effective employees for our team.

Service to the Tomah community: We will ensure an educational experience and environment for our students, parents and community members that promotes understanding and kindness by creating connections to one another.

Future focused: We will work to transform educational opportunities to ensure the Tomah Area School District remains a school district of choice for students and their families

Finance and operations: We will plan and use resources to best support the district mission, vision and goals.

Monitoring specific measures in each of these five categories is being done, and strategic actions are developed to improve our results from one year to another. For example, because third-grade reading scores and eighth-grade math scores are important predictors of high school graduation and career success, we are monitoring our students’ proficiency in these areas and have in place specific strategies to move the needle on student achievement (i.e. teachers provided with high-quality instructional materials, instructional coaches to support fidelity in program implementation adult learning frameworks to guide professional development).

In October we launched a staff engagement survey to obtain feedback from all of our employees so we can determine measures to monitor and actions to implement which will enable us to retain quality staff. We decided that exit interviews with employees leaving probably isn’t as helpful as listening to our employees while they are here so they will stay. This year we will be using exit tickets at a number of school events to gauge how effectively we are communicating with parents and creating positive experiences for community members when they interact with school district employees and students as a means to measure our service to the Tomah community. We will also be documenting the service our students provide to our community through activities organized by our teachers and advisors of co-curricular activities.

As we look to ensure our school district remains a district of choice for students and families, we will monitor our enrollment in our non-traditional school options (i.e. our public charter Montessori school, Lemonweir’s 45-15 calendar, the Rural Virtual Academy, and our alternative education programs) and also work to increase the number of college credits (transcripted and AP) which students earn while in high school, along with industry certifications which prepare our students for the world of work.

Lastly, as we budget and operate, we need to ensure our priorities remain focused on student learning, so monitoring the dollars spent on instruction is critical. As we spend additional dollars on technology each year, it is important that we are putting into place actions that will result in decreased damage expenses to Chromebooks, our 1:1 technology device. Our board of education, our administrative team and our employees are committed to the notion of continuous improvement. It is through this process of strategic planning in which we define what is important, what we will measure, and how we will take actions to improve, that we can focus our efforts and make change that will be for the betterment of our students and our employees, as well as our community and taxpayers.

To review the Tomah Area School District’s strategic plan, you can go to the following link:

If you have any questions or comments about the information and opinions expressed in this edition of The School Bell, please contact Cindy Zahrte, district administrator, at or 608-374-7002.

Cindy Zahrte is the superintendent of the Tomah Area School District.


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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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