School district 79 superintendent Robyn Gray, district student advisory committee member Eilís Young and board chair Candace Spilsbury were all on hand Wednesday morning to announce the SD79 2020-2024 strategic plan. (Photo by Sarah Simpson/Cowichan Valley Citizen)

Beyond Education: Cowichan Valley School District focuses on the future with new strategic plan

Departure from conventional approaches of the past

The Cowichan Valley School District unveiled its 2020-2024 strategic plan last Wednesday morning, a plan aimed to see well-informed, collaborative, creative critical-thinking and compassionate students into the future.

“It’s a very exciting time for us,” SD79 board chair Candace Spilsbury said. “This took a long time, for the board, particularly for our senior staff, to be working through a process that has gotten us this document which we call our vision is Beyond Education.”

Spilsbury explained that it’s a departure from the more conventional approaches of the past but that’s quite simply because it’s all about the future.

“If you think about education we think about the traditional school and all our memories around only that school and the traditional kinds of reading, writing, and arithmetic that we always thought was school and what was needed as total education but ‘Beyond Education’ is really what it’s all about. It’s about the future and that’s the piece that we tried to capture,” Spilsbury said.

The plan was a collaborative effort bringing together stakeholders from all corners and disciplines. Members of the community, students, staff and parents at each SD79 school were also asked to be involved in the development of the plan.

What’s different is quite often that feedback is overlooked or even ignored. Not this time.

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“Sometimes you go out to a community and you consult but you don’t change anything,” Spilsbury noted. “In this document we changed. We have been very conscious of identifying the students, the student voice and expressing it in a way that hopefully people will understand and it’s expressed that the students will be creating their future, they’ll be creating their world.”

Admittedly, she said in the past teachers liked to think they knew what students needed. That’s not so true anymore.

“Our society is changing so quickly that it’s a whole different skill-set and knowledge base that they need and also they need the chance to tell us where they want to go and what their future looks like.”

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School District 79 superintendent Robyn Gray said the district heard the community values equity, relationships, the environment, harmony and inclusiveness and that the way to honour those values is through broadly learning: ensuring a voice and choice for all learners; Indigenous ways of knowing: embracing Indigenous perspectives and knowledge as part of our history; a culture of care: recognizing the importance of relationships; and a future-focused system: creating a nimble and dynamic environment that embraces change and fosters innovation.

“We know that the skills that our kids need related to their future are something that maybe is different than it was maybe 10, 20, maybe 30 years ago,” Gray said.

Notably, despite all four walls in the SD79 conference room covered with primary sources from the months and months of research and consultation, there’s not one statistic in the 2020-2024 strategic plan.

“You’re not going to see numbers and percentages on how kids are doing but rather you’re going to see our values, what we believe in, what we’re going to be focusing on,” Gray said. “Now the hard work would really begin and we as the operations team will have to put our eyes on it and now we actually put the strategies and the tactics and the timelines and we have to resource it in order to now meet the goals that are our priorities in the next four years.”

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