Donna ISD leaders planning for the future

DONNA — School district administrators and community members here shared ideas in the district board room recently to improve Donna schools. It’s part of a multi-phase plan aimed at creating a 5-year strategic plan for the district through the collaboration of district officials, teachers and local community members.

The design session took place April 15-16, with additional planning sessions slated to occur into early May.

District administrators are seeking input from various stakeholders in order to discuss the district’s values and vision for the next five years. The room of about 40 people split into groups, stakeholders consisting of staff, parents, teachers and school principals held a roundtable discussion to bounce ideas off each other.

“The end goal is to make our district even better to serve our community and make sure we are the district of tomorrow,” Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez said during a speech introducing the session.

The community and district leaders coming together is important as the strategic planning will have lasting effects, said Steve Waddell, executive facilitator of engage2learn, an organization that collaborates with public schools to engage education with students.

“This will impact children for years to come,” he said.

“Public schools are the greatest community builder that we have in the United States,” Waddell said after sharing an anecdote about a school that had served as place of shelter after a disaster.

Waddell said tables were divided among participants who occupy different roles within the community, so that their diverse experiences could foster a variety of perspectives.

Waddell and engage2learn facilitated discussion and activities for attendees involving data and bridged the gap between district employees and the parents and students they serve.

Expectations of a facilitating a “strategic road map” and creating innovations with the notion to “sustain that change” were among some of the workshop’s goals.

As the main group broke up into smaller groups, the conversations took on a more egalitarian nature, with students and school administrators conversing as peers.

Their first task was to find common beliefs amongst the participants at a particular table before sharing them to the larger group.

Ultimately, the groups realized they shared similar beliefs about fostering emotional intelligence along with social skills, helping students find their passion and incorporating an inclusive school culture that values everyone.

At the end of the day, participants felt optimistic about the district’s new trajectory.

Parent and former teacher Melissa Jones is a Donna native and currently has two children enrolled into the district.

“ As a parent you want them to be productive citizens, locally and nationally and globally, and to contribute to society and have a passion for what they are doing for life,” she said. “I think that everyone there had that goal in mind,” she said.

School board members also took the time to contribute to the meeting, and their role is important to the district, Jones said.

“ I think that the future looks bright for Donna and I’m thrilled,” she said.