As of February 26, we have received 846 comments from 424 people on our 2020-25 strategic plan. This includes attendees at the January 14 and February 10 community engagement sessions, as well as people who have completed the online form. We have grouped the comments into themes and summarized them here. Please note that all individual comments are on file and will be read and considered as the process moves forward.
- PreK: Ensure coursework is developmentally appropriate, not too heavily focused on academics.
- Class size: Small class sizes are still a priority for many respondents.
- Special Education: How can special education students be more integrated into the school and less isolated? Can IEPs be more clear or better explained to parents? Ensure students receiving Special Education are not stigmatized or bullied. What are the standards for quality education in Special Ed?
- Achievement gap: People are concerned about inequities and want to ensure we are addressing these gaps. Make sure the curriculum and classrooms reflect the diversity of the students, including cultural norms. Incorporate parent education and resources to support struggling students outside the classroom. Ensure students believe in themselves and their abilities - the belief gap contributes to achievement. Encourage all students to take rigorous or advanced courses.
- Interventions: Help students earlier so they don't get behind. How can parents help? Need workshops for parents so they can learn how to help their students.
- Technology: More student creation with technology, student 1:1 devices throughout, more innovative instructional practices and pedagogy that promotes problem-solving, collaborative and critical thinking, including using technology to improve instructional practices and create rigorous and challenging learning experiences for students. We need to go beyond rote learning (like worksheets). Keep an eye on changes in technology and what's coming in the future. Create a culture of inclusivity that isn’t inhibited or negatively impacted by technology.
- Rigor: Ensure a rigorous curriculum that supports students, focus on reading, science and math, ensure students aren't just "getting by" but that they are challenged. Make sure elementary students have enough of a foundation in writing and good study skills in preparation for middle school.
- Gifted and talented: Define the criteria. What are students qualified for and when? Advanced math and GT should be available at the elementary level.
- Student evaluation: People would like to see alternative ways to measure student progress or knowledge, not just tests. Review grading practices, ensure they are aligned and adopted across the board. The purpose of school is to learn, not do homework.
- Biliteracy: Lots of support for the dual-immersion program. Some people would like to see it expand to other schools as well. Ensure students are receiving enough Spanish support from 4th-5th grade into middle school. Ensure teachers all value biliteracy, regardless of the language or culture.
- Course offerings: More life skills courses (taxes, budgeting, contracts, etc.), more family and consumer sciences in the middle school (culinary, fashion design, etc.), more music and arts at elementary school. One person suggested seminar time for students during the school day where teachers introduce themselves and talk about their course offerings, which was done in 2017 and was helpful for students to identify courses before enrollment. Several comments were about more project-based learning.
- Transitions: Better alignment and support during transitions from elementary to middle and middle to high school. Also, support for transition from pre-k to kindergarten. Prepare parents for these transitions as well as the students: what are students registering for, how can parents be involved in this?
- Post-secondary options: Be sure all students are learning about post-secondary options - from trades and certificate programs to 4-year colleges. Encourage all students. Someone suggested a full advisory day at the high school for students to plan for high school classes, complete an interest inventory, and do post-secondary planning. Start post-secondary planning in elementary. Consider a Career and College Center at the high school like Minneapolis has. Provide internships in high school so students can explore careers.
- Parent engagement: Some parents would like more time at conferences (they feel rushed), would like to have teachers more available and improved communications from teachers around student academics/learning.
- More variety: People wanted to see a greater variety of offerings, including more visual and performing arts, athletics for all abilities, and clubs like Chess Club, Robotics, Cooking, and Voces Unidos. There was also the request for more academic support programs after school like reading programs or homework help. People suggested partnering with local organizations to help make this possible, including Community Education, the library, Young Life and TreeHouse. Be sure to include student voice in planning new activities.
- Extended days and times: Respondents indicated that they would like activity options for non-school days and in the summer. After school options for pre-k and elementary students were requested, especially for working parents.
- More performances: Related to the increase in visual and performing arts opportunities, people indicated that they would like more student performances each year.
- Increased participation: There were several comments related to lowering fees or providing more scholarships to increase student participation in activities. There were also several comments about not wanting all the teams to have to do so much fundraising. After school activity buses were recommended as a way to increase participation. People also want to ensure equity in access to activities for our diverse student population, including more para support for students with disabilities.
- Attendance: There were requests for more marketing and promotion of games and theater performances to increase attendance, as well as greater representation from staff at events. One person suggested providing transportation to/from senior communities to attend events.
- School pride: Quite a few people wanted more opportunities to develop school pride through school events, pep fests, track and field days, Friday Spartan clothing day, etc. There was also a request to improve our athletic facilities as a way to bring more students into the district and/or retain current students.
- Parents: The topic of more parent activities came up frequently, including classes like "healthy parenting" and "social media," activities for parents in the evenings or while their children are in activities or at dances, etc. Transportation could be a barrier for some parents and it was suggested that transportation be offered for parent/family events.
- Communication: More coverage for our sports teams was requested, also more communication overall to help students/families navigate the registration process.
CLIMATE & CULTURE
- Diversity: There were a lot of comments about the value of diversity in RPS and how we can best encourage and support this. Events and activities at the district-level to celebrate cultures were suggested - which would help unite diverse families who have children at different schools. There were also concerns about staff supporting Somali families better and a desire to see more teachers of color in the schools. One student also suggested starting affinity groups at the high school, i.e. a Black Student Union.
- Cultural competency: Several people noted a need or desire for cultural competency training for all staff, as well as a greater appreciation for all cultures. Celebrations from different culters were also suggested. There were some concerns about negative stereotypes both from students and from staff.
- Interpreting and translations: There is a desire for more Somali translations, as well as the availability of translators at all schools. People who do not speak English feel more welcome in the buildings if front office staff greet them and are able to quickly find interpreters if needed.
- Parent Involvement: People wanted more opportunities for parents to be involved in their child's school beyond the PTO. Things like giving new family tours, grant writing, working with lobbyists, etc. There was also a suggestion to create a map of all the places families come from around the world. Another suggestion was to invite parents in as speakers, to educate students about their language or culture.
- Student support: There were suggestions for providing increased student support, especially social-emotional support. One suggestion was to have counselors follow students by grade from elementary through graduation, instead of building-specific counselors. People definitely want to make sure students have the support they need to be successful both inside and outside the classroom. Time management to help students juggle school, homework, jobs and extracurriculars were mentioned. Some people want to see more staff support for social-emotional and behavior, including more mental health support staff.
- Student voice: From what types of activities are offered to how decisions are made, people want to ensure student voice is part of the process.
- Student behavior: Comments related to student behavior had more to do with ensuring policies are in place and followed equitably than any fears regarding current behaviors. Someone suggested engaging students in behavior/discipline, such as through a restorative justice program. There were 1-2 comments about needing to improve behavior in the upper grades during lunch and passing times. Also, there are comments on wanting to ensure rules/policies are followed consistently in buildings and across buildings.
- Bullying: There were some concerns about bullying and wanting to ensure there are safe/anonymous ways to report bullying and that reports are followed up on.
- Safety & security: There were several comments about wanting improved security at school entrances.
- Staffing: Maintain or increase support staff positions: counselors, social workers, student engagement specialists (elementary schools), outreach workers, mental health support staff, nurses, etc. Support and train teachers to identify and support students with mental health.
BUSINESS & OPERATIONS
- Environmentally friendly: Some people expressed a desire to move away from disposable lunch items (i.e. plastic silverware). There were questions about the district's overall carbon footprint. Several comments about adding bike racks/lockers, shared bikes and becoming a certified bike-friendly organization.
- Nutrition services: More farm to table and locally sourced foods. Students want a say in what is served and want to try new recipes. There is also the suggestion that lunches should be free for all students. Food waste was also a concern.
- Transportation: People would like a transportation app so they know how close the bus is. They would also like to see more supervision on buses and better customer service when there is a problem. Some comments about the walk zone being too large and also wanting more support for safe biking and walking routes for students. People want a lower carbon footprint from transportation and also more after school/activity buses to ensure students are able to participate. Offering transportation for parents/families to/from school events was also suggested.
- HR: Ensure there is a solid onboarding process for new staff, fill vacant positions (especially bus drivers and cafeteria staff), post positions earlier, and work to improve teacher retention. Building subs were suggested several times, as was better compensation, training and support for subs. It was suggested that there be more maintenance staff at the middle and high schools. There were also a couple of comments about making the application process easier. Several suggestions to better support paras in buildings both through professional development and higher pay. Professional development for office staff, outreach workers and admin assistants was also a priority for some.
- Facilities: Buildings are cleaned and well maintained (several compliments to custodial staff), people like the construction so far and want to be sure there are nice signs included, everything is on track and on budget, and also want to ensure the new spaces are well maintained and cared for once done. The high school parking lot is unsafe and needs work. There were also requests for increased playground equipment, a soccer field and recreational spaces on school grounds.
- Finance: There were an equal number of comments about efficiency and fiscal responsibility as there were requesting increased budgets/funding for activities and programs. A few people asked for more transparency in the budget.
COMMUNICATION & MARKETING
- Enrollment: Several people are concerned about students leaving RPS for other schools or districts or for homeschooling. There were multiple suggestions for marketing the district to attract these families. Likewise, there were comments about ensuring class sizes are low and that we give priority to Richfield residents over out-of-district families.
- Family communication: Offer parent/guardian workshops and family education to help parents/guardians learn about the district, how to support their students, etc. It would also help diverse families connect with each other and build relationships. There was an overall request to improve parent communication from the teacher, school and district level. More communication with the Somali community. Overall, communication needs to be more consistent and more welcoming (this includes written communication, phone calls and in-person interactions).
- Communication tools: Many people expressed frustration with the number of platforms and apps they are expected to have/use: Schoology, Google Classroom and ParentVue were all mentioned, as well as teacher apps like SeeSaw and Remind.
- PR: More positive news stories in the media and shared with the community through newsletters, social media and the website. Include construction updates, alumni profiles, etc. More photos and videos.
- Alumni: Create an organized alumni association. Bring alumni back to the schools to talk with students.
- Create more partnerships with local civic organizations, corporations, The League of Women Voters, etc.
- Increase opportunities for international exchanges and hosting exchange students.
- Can we get bikes donated?
- What can the school district do to strengthen the community to help bring students to school ready to learn?
- Before and after school childcare.
- Language classes for staff.
- More district support and presence for the Eagle Bluff trip.
- How can we get more of the retirement community to volunteer in the schools?