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Strategic Plan Expo: Thinking (and Acting) Differently

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education (BoE) meeting on December 7 offered a new interactive experience for Board members and attendees from the community: the first-ever Strategic Plan Expo, where the five Key Priorities of the Plan were presented at various stations to showcase aligned programs and initiatives -- and to illustrate the district administration’s commitment to Think (and Act) Differently. Collective Efficacy on full display!

Previously, the traditional approach to sharing data and accomplishments was to build an “Opening of Schools Report” which administrators shared at BOE meetings in long presentations. However, in discussions with the CHCCS Student Success Committee, the vision for an Expo evolved, with informal conversations and demonstrations conducted by a wide range of staff members, as well as students. The result was an hour-long event with a rotation through all stations – and everyone who made the circuit had the opportunity to hear from, and ask questions of all the presenters, to better understand the work that is underway with the Strategic Plan 2027. 

The large room immediately became a hive of lively talk – not your average Board meeting! 

For the Key Priority Creating a Culture of Safety and Wellness, Chief of School Support and Wellness, Dr. Charlos Banks, and Director of Mental Health and Wellness, Janet Cherry, unveiled “Growing Resilient Learning Communities,” as practiced through the Community Resiliency Model (CRM). This model of school support serves students and staff alike, with an emphasis on moving from “trauma-informed” to “resiliency-informed,” a positive and proactive orientation to understand how self-regulation and resourcing can create stronger communities. Dr. Banks led participants through a brief “resourcing” exercise to demonstrate one of the primary tools of CRM, and she raised the essential question, “How do we teach skills that help students grow healthy?”

For the Key Priority Instructional Excellence: Preparing Students for Life, two elementary school teams demonstrated very different instructional strategies, “Student-led Conferences” from Scroggs Elementary School and “Math Task: Counting Collection” from Morris Grove Elementary School, both of which were chosen as manifestations of Goal Two of the Strategic Plan, CHCCS will prioritize opportunities designed to elevate student voice and access to meaningful, authentic instruction while empowering students to advocate for their own learning. Scroggs fifth grade teachers, Jasmine Johnson and James Nohe, with their student, CJ, shared their process for student-led conferences. Instructional Coach, Mary Alicia Lyons and Fourth Grade Teacher, Molly Kearns, from Morris Grove worked with three of their students to show various examples of “counting collections.” Audience members learned by watching and listening to the teachers and students themselves, viewing the tasks as they evolved in real time. 

To highlight the Key Priority Empowering, Equipping and Investing in Our People, the presenters included principals from McDougle Elementary, Kirtisha Jones, and Culbreth Middle, Luke Paulsen, who reflected on their experiences in the two year cohort Leading Equity and Achievement Development (LEAD). They spoke to district leadership’s welcome intentionality in their commitment to develop a cohort of assistant principals to be ready for leading their own schools as principals. Jennifer Halsey, principal at Carrboro Elementary, spoke as being a member of the Chapel Hill Executive Leadership Academy (CELA) and shared how she was supported in efforts to receive “customized Professional Development” in leading a school with half Dual Language and half traditional instruction. 

Two district Equity Specialists for Instructional Equity, Gina Floyd and Liz Vail, from the Office of Equity and Engagement, rounded out that station with a shared account of the work they are leading in the new Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning (CRTL) program. The program requires a two year commitment from teachers with an emphasis on learning strategies to develop academic success in every student. In the second year of the program, participants create a project-based unit of culturally affirming instruction to take back to their own schools – and to pass it along. This was a full station indeed!

The station for Key Priority Equitable and Transparent Fiscal Stewardship and Operations featured topics that provided examples from the broader elements of the Operations Division and the Business/Financial Services Division. Loree Perry from Child Nutrition brought food samples from their Happy and Healthy Chartwells menus: Vegan Spinach and Chickpea Wrap and Vegetarian Cucumber and Apple Salad as convenient Grab ‘n Go options. These options were a result of a recent student survey asking for meal selection feedback.  Perry noted they are working to be more inclusive of dietary choices, saying cheese pizza isn’t enough for vegetarians!  Felicia Glenn from Facilities Services provided her perspective on the Transportation Department’s “Optimization” community meetings. She provided a “firsthand” overview on the day in the life of an employee working their full time job while also working as a bus driver during our staff shortage. Glenn noted that the community meetings have allowed staff and citizens to provide ideas and suggestions on how to improve transportation in a way in which everyone is able to contribute and be heard. This has allowed the process to be more transparent and inclusive.

The station for Key Priority Strengthening Family and Community Engagement featured Chief Communications Officer Andy Jenks joined by Public Housing Director Faith Brodie and Julian Gerner of the Town of Chapel Hill. As a slide show revolved through almost 100 images, they described the Superintendent’s Walk and Talks that occurred at several neighborhoods this fall, where Superintendent Nyah Hamlett visited with parents and children on their own “turf”-- reaching out to families who might not have time, transportation or other resources to attend district and schoolwide meetings. The tone of the Walk and Talks has been lighthearted, fun and has still allowed for discussions of the Strategic Plan and anything else on parents’ and caregivers’ minds.

Sharing the five key priorities with Board members and the community allowed district leaders, staff and students to experience the Strategic Plan 2027 from a different perspective. It helped make the statistics, reports and graphs come to life and to be seen as real people, real students, real learning. All who attended had the opportunity to see how CHCCS continues to Think (and Act) Differently.

CHCCS District Headlines stories are written on a regular basis by the CHCCS Division of Communications, with assistance from a network of school-based “storytellers” who share tips and ideas throughout the school year. The goal is to share real-world examples of the CHCCS Strategic Plan in action. Know about a story worth telling from your school? Contact the CHCCS Communications team at