Why Community Engagement is Important at Alexandria City Public Schools

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Karen Graf, current chair of the Alexandria City School Board, writes in with a response to this reader email about Alexandria City Public Schools launch of their ACPS 2020 strategic plan this past Friday.

As I stated in the earlier post, I have no issue with spending a few dollars to get kids excited about learning. What are your thoughts on this?

Dear Red Brick Town,

Last Friday, ACPS had a community event to launch the 5-year strategic plan called ACPS 2020. This event was aimed at engaging the whole community and enlightening them a little about its mission: Every Student Succeeds.

Community engagement is one of the six goals in ACPS 2020. While academic excellence is our core business, strong operations – such as finance, human resources and communications – support ACPS in reaching our goals. We can have the best teachers in the classroom, but they can only be so effective if the infrastructure is weak. All departments need to be on point to achieve our goals.

This is why strategic plans are important – they define the mission and vision for the total organization. Strategic plans give employees, the leadership, boards and the community at-large a sense of confidence and purpose. Only through everyone pulling in the same direction can ACPS see every student succeed.

This Board has worked hard to improve public dialogue so that the community has an accurate view of what is happening in the school system today and what our plans are for the future. Through the launch event, the Superintendent and his staff were able to share the six goals that a committee of citizens, the ACPS staff and the Alexandria City Public School Board worked to draw up over last the school year.

It’s healthy for organizations as large as ours, with 14,700 students and over 2600 employees, that we are clear about the mission and that we support it. Even with a conservative department, the Communications department planned a good event by using in-house talent, like the graphic designer and a video specialist.

When our Board knew that we would be taking on this task, we budgeted appropriately in FY16 for the complete strategic plan rollout. The Communications department budget helps ACPS advance their mission to support and promote every aspect of ACPS news.

How do you know we had a good event? Because we planned for 500 and over 2000 showed up. And they enjoyed the celebration of seeing so many other ACPS families and learning about the mission. So if you are one of the people that did not get pizza or was not able to make it through the whole event, we promise we will be ready for you next time.

Alexandrians, get ready for quality communications. Because this is what it looks like – even with a small budget and a small team. There are great things happening at ACPS. And we want you to be a part of it.

– Karen Graf

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