Aspen Board of Education unanimously approves new district strategic plan |

Aspen Board of Education unanimously approves new district strategic plan

Extensive review, development process results in thumbs-up for long-term vision

Superintendent David Baugh takes part in the Aspen School District Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, when board members discussed a district strategic plan during ongoing review of document this winter. Board member Jonathan Nickell sits in the background.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

After years of development and months of review and revision, the Aspen School District now has a strategic plan to guide the district through 2025.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the plan on the fourth official reading at a Jan. 26 meeting after making final adjustments to the draft. But the plan, which contains a vision, mission statement and five core goals for the district, isn’t intended to be relegated to a filing cabinet now that it has the thumbs-up from the board, President Katy Frisch said.

“It is not something that I would want to sit on a shelf,” Frisch said. “It’s something that is going to be used for everything. … There should be a reason for everything that we do that comes back to the strategic plan.”

Board members have maintained throughout the process that the plan will be a living document subject to change as it ties into the goals of the district, the school board and the superintendent, David Baugh.

The district’s goals, according to the plan, center on attracting, developing and retaining “world-class teachers”; providing “individualized learning experiences” for all students, developing an “innovative culture,” cultivating a “relationship focused” school community and being “responsible stewards of district resources,” the document states.

The strategic plan also lays out specific initiatives that will help achieve those targets, some of which cover multiple categories. Bolstering the staff housing inventory could help serve both the “world class teachers” and resource stewardship goals, for instance. Likewise, ongoing support for experiential learning programs could help foster both an innovative culture and a relationship-focused one.

Those goals and initiatives play into the broader district vision and mission that also are baked into the strategic plan.

“The Aspen School District cultivates inquisitive, resilient, and caring young people, enabling them to reach their highest academic potential through education that is rigorous, inclusive, and reflective of our mountain community values,” the mission statement reads.

The district vision, which has been subject to some wordsmithing and thematic adjustments during the review process, now states that “The Aspen School District will be an International model for enabling every student to reach their full potential,” according to the version that was approved this week.

It has dropped an aim stated in an earlier draft “to be the best district in the country,” a target that was a sticking point during review back in November. Board members then were concerned that aspiration to be “the best” would be too vague and too lofty without specific metrics to hit.

The plan was reviewed by district stakeholders nine times in four months leading up to Wednesday’s meeting: on Oct. 4, 24, 26 and 29 and Nov. 2, 5 and 10, 2021; and Jan. 11 and 18, 2022, according to the draft included in this week’s board meeting agenda.

Strategic planning efforts date back to 2018 and 2019 and were followed by “extensive” curriculum work in 2020 and 2021. A series of ThoughtExchange surveys during the leading up to the generation of the current plan garnered responses from more than 300 respondents who submitted 359 “thoughts” and nearly 4,000 ratings of those thoughts.

The final product is the result of collaboration among current and past school board members, district officials and members of the school community at large, district officials emphasized on Wednesday.

“This started from years ago — from brown papers on the wall, from sticky notes, from lots and lots of work over the years that built up from staff, built up from the community, built up from the students,” Frisch said.