“What we’re hoping to do is redefine our mission and vision for Twin Valley Schools,” said Twin Valley School Board member Phil Taylor. “We want to come up with an advanced, 21st century education program that meets the changing needs of education.”
Taylor explained that the process was community-led in order to create a school vision that reflects the values of the community. “We want to capture your ideals and what you value most about education, and allow that to guide us in creating practical and useable governing documents we can use throughout our education program.”
Twin Valley is in a period of transition after a vote to expand the two-town joint contract school system to include pre-K through 12, and a subsequent bond vote to close the current Twin Valley High School and create a middle high school at the Whitingham School building and an elementary school at Deerfield Valley Elementary School.
“It would be easy for us to take a look at what we have, make the space a little bigger, fill it up, and keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said board member John Doty. “And we’d probably get the same old results. We’re hoping to get a different outcome. We need to change the spaces, but we also need to change what we’re doing in the spaces.”
Doty presented statistics indicating that US schools aren’t doing as well as some may suggest. In literacy the United States ranks 17th among nations, 31st in math, and 23rd in science. But Doty also suggested that grades and tests aren’t the purpose of education. “The primary aim of education is not to enable students to do well in school, but to help them do well in the lives they lead outside of school,” he said. “We have to look at what happens 10 or 15 years down the road. The answer for us is to improve schools faster than the rate of change in the world so we get something different than we have now. We want a new and better education system that educates all of our children for success in the 21st century. We want to create a world class education system in the Deerfield Valley, and the world class education system will be underlying economic development in the valley.”
Doty and Taylor separated attendees into two groups to discuss five topics: the school, learning, students, teachers, and parents and the community. Led by Doty and Taylor, the two groups were instructed to write down three top priorities in each of the five categories. Through a process of discussion, the two facilitators grouped similar ideas to create broader topics ranked by the number of responses. Board members will use the answers to create a vision statement for the school.
Under the topic of the school, participants in one group said they wanted a school that inspires learning, is welcoming, comfortable and safe, and where students have access to technology.
Of the topic learning, the other group’s top priorities were citizenship, real-world skills, and critical thinking.
The same group, discussing the topic of students, said they wanted the school to foster students that are determined, hardworking, self-motivated, curious, and respectful.
On the topic of teachers, the group said they want teachers who are excited and passionate, who challenge and encourage students, and are open-minded and willing to adapt to students’ educational needs.
Regarding parents and the community, participants said they want a community that will provide the necessary financial support for the school, parents who are involved in their children’s education, parents who participate and attend events, and a community that has high expectations for the school and students.