Why Does JPS Need a Strategic Plan?

Jamestown Public Schools developed a 2014-19 District Strategic Plan with the help of parents, students, JPS staff, non-profits and foundations, local businesses, and colleges. The plan includes four district goals:

Goal 1:  Ensure academic excellence and equity for every student

Goal #2 – Create an engaging and nurturing school environment in and outside the classroom rich with opportunities that develop the whole child.

Goal 3:  Improve communications and deepen engagement for both families and the broader community

Goal 4 – Implement operational standards and practices that improve and support student success

Each goal has multiple strategies, and this fall action plans and a schedule for implementation during the five years have been added in a new publication that makes the Strategic Plan more actionable. This new JPS Strategic Plan document can be found HERE.  But why does JPS need a Strategic Plan?

Excellence and Equity for Every Student

Public schools open their doors to all students, regardless of background, race, gender or abilities. It is Jamestown Public Schools’ mission “to provide our students high-quality, 21st century learning experiences within and beyond our classrooms so that our graduates are prepared to excel in college, career, and life.”  We aim to provide abundant opportunities that help students identify and develop their individual strengths and talents, as a springboard to a flourishing adulthood. The 2014-19 JPS Strategic Plan provides a 5-year blueprint for our district and the community, to ensure the best educational experience for our children.

With Change, Comes Challenges

JPS enjoys a 128-year tradition of excellence in the local community, annually serving approximately 5,000 diverse students: 67% Caucasian, 20% Hispanic, 9% multi-racial and 4% African American. English as Language Learners account for 4% of our population. Students with Disabilities comprise 13% of our student body.

The community in which we all live and learn faces many challenges:
•    71% of our students are economically disadvantaged, as compared to 43% in 2002. 
The City of Jamestown has a 29% poverty rate. JPS is among the poorest 1% of all districts in NYS.
•    Only 20% of students entering JPS Kindergarten demonstrate needed early literacy skills.
•    The 2014 graduation rate for all JPS students was 72%. Hispanic students graduated at a rate of 64% and Students with Disabilities graduated at only 57%.
•    The overall dropout rate at JHS is 16%.
•    In English Language Arts (ELA) for grades 3 to 8, only 20% of our students were proficient in NYS Standards in 2014, and 47% well-below proficient. In Math for grades 3 to 8, only 22% of our students were proficient in NYS Standards in 2014, and 47% well-below proficient.
•    The JPS Regents Passing Rate is below the NYS average in every subject area: ELA 70% (NYS 81%), Math 81% (NYS 84%), Global History 65% (NYS 78%), US History 69% (NYS 79%), Science 76% (NYS 82%). 
•    NYS / Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Accountability designated Jamestown as a “Focus District” for the low performance of English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities, which are significantly below the NYS average.

JPS Has Been Shortchanged for Years

Underperformance is not the only challenge; underfunding is another.  Our district’s budget relies heavily on state aid – fully 70% of JPS’ budget is built on state-calculated financial assistance. JPS has been tragically underfunded by the state for many years. The lack of Foundation Aid and Gap Elimination Adjustment dollars totaled a whopping $131,945,216 by 2015 (just under $22 million per year). Because we suffer a depressed local economy – Jamestown ranks 669 of 676 NYS school districts on a tool used to measure economic need, called “The Wealth Index” – we can do little to stem the tide. Our local tax levy supplies about 20% of our budget; and an increase of 1% on the tax levy brings a mere $140,000 to the district. Despite these financial challenges, the district has redoubled its efforts to find ways to provide for the educational needs of its children. The Strategic Plan addresses the need to allocate resources with the best interests of our students in mind.

With Challenges, Come Opportunities

It’s not all “gloom and doom.”  Jamestown Public Schools has always been committed to supporting and enriching students academically, socially and emotionally. The district has forged powerful, effective partnerships with local foundations, non-profits, organizations and businesses. We live in a caring and diverse community where people are concerned about the education and lifelong success of our children. There is much to celebrate. The district provides numerous opportunities for its students, both in the classroom and outside it: JPS claims the largest selection of Advanced Placement and College-Level Courses in the area, a wide variety of elective offerings at JHS, championship music and athletic programs and unparalleled facilities, over $250,000 in scholarship opportunities for students, state-of-the-art technology, robust after school programs, a Universal Pre-kindergarten program for our district’s 4-year-olds, and JHS Academies offering six study tracks for students to become 21st century learners and workers.

Why Do We Need District-Wide/Community-Wide Goals?

“A goal without a plan is simply a wish.” The JPS Strategic Plan was developed by, and for, the Jamestown community. It asks our community to consider how we can ensure that all children in the district have access to, and become involved and supported in a wide variety of academic and extracurricular opportunities that merge to help them realize college, career, and, lifelong success. The 2014-19 JPS Strategic Plan and its four identified goals are intended to be a roadmap to galvanize the
community in all its student-centered actions and decisions. In order to be successful, we must be committed to monitoring the Strategic Plan’s progress, including identifying ways to measure its success, allocate resource responsively, and update the plan in order to meet our community’s evolving needs and priorities.

posted on 09/22/2015 - filed under: Academics, Community, Elementary School, JHS, Middle School, Parents, Spotlight, Staff, Students