Known as the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization, core values are set in motion to help individuals understand the difference between right and wrong while also serving as a guiding light for goal performance.
On a mission to establish a core value system in the Winthrop School District, Superintendent of Schools Lisa Howard set out to determine the priorities of town employees, community members, parents and teachers.
“We asked everyone the same questions and really figured out what was thematic about everyone’s ideas and the areas that need improvement,” said Howard, who worked closely with the team leaders and school administration to conclude a set of objectives and priorities linked to the vision and mission of the district.
The leadership team collected data across a vast group of parents, students, and members of the community by way of one on one meetings designed to promote a sense of transparency. As a result, the district adopted the following “PRIDE” core values:
The year-long process took the major themes into consideration and during the leadership academy last summer, the top three categories were identified and developed into three main objectives:
• High quality, rigorous instruction and curriculum alignment
• Teaching all students in a safe and welcoming environment
• Professional culture and community engagement
“Each objective over the course of several years will be slightly different at each school, depending on the needs of the students. Everyone worked as a team and we got into different groups within each school to streamline those objectives and put a plan in place,” Howard said.
Every year, a list of strategies will be prioritized depending on the school and each principal will be required to address how they will accomplish each strategy. The goal is to not just write down a list of strategies, but to actually show them as checked off action items. Certain leaders will be responsible for implementing these strategies in each school across the district, in hopes of creating a sense of consistency.
“Everything we do in the district that requires a new decision will have some tie to the core values,” said Howard. “It’s about both the kids and adults. Whether they are a teacher, cafeteria worker, or the principal, they should be able to look at the core values, respect them, and conduct themselves in a certain way. We need to model ourselves for the kids.”
Part of the new core values system involves a weekly meeting between Howard and each principal, to discuss issues that are going on in the building and a chance to look at each situation that needs to be tended to.
“I feel like this builds a culture of positivity and understanding in the school system. Much like an organization, if you don’t know how that organization works, how can you be successful?” said Howard. “It’s a team, we can disagree, but we are a united front. That’s the direction I’m taking with the district, so the end result is successful students. Employees are excited to be a part of the process of developing expectations.”
This new core values system will drive everything in the Winthrop Public Schools including teacher evaluations, curriculum development, district improvement planning, budgeting and the overall measurement of success from year to year.