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Peoria Public Schools Implementing ‘Ambitious’ 5-Year Strategic Plan

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Peoria Public Schools will be focusing on “reimagining education” for the next five years.Members of the strategic planning team hope Peoria Public Schools will offer “a re-imagined education that ignites passions and empowers students to be responsible and successful” and Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat made clear that the plan will directly influence future changes across their system.

“A strategic plan is an important document that communicates the organization’s goals and the actions needed to achieve those goals,” said Desmoulin-Kherat. “The strategic plan really guides our work.”

Retired Peoria Public Schools administrator and strategic planning leader Dr. Thom Simpson led the presentation of an updated 5-year plan at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting. Along with retired administrator Cheryl Sanfilip, Simpson helped to organize various committees that began working in 2019 to revamp the previous plan.

Following meetings with a committee of staff members,students, and parents, 5-year goals for Peoria Public Schools were established, some of those being an increased focus on staff recruitment, increasing overall student attendance, promoting literacy, and improving student morale.

“Action teams” were then created to design the required steps to reach each of the goals, with Peoria Public Schools, Illinois State University, Bradley University,and Illinois Central College staff all contributing. Center for Prevention of Abuse Director of Marketing and Communications Camille Yameen, former 2nd District City Council candidate Peter Kobak, and former vice resident of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce Sherneka Cagle also assisted in action team planning.

At Monday night’s meeting, committee members presented the board with an array of ideas to help Peoria Public Schools achieve the aforementioned goals, ranging from expanding social-emotional learning and family engagement, to launching new public relations initiatives.

Desmoulin-Kherat stated that, after implementation, the public will be updated yearly on the plan’s effectiveness.

Many members noted that while the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of challenges for educators, it has also opened doors to new ways of thinking.

“I would say that pieces of these plans are already being implemented,” said Dr. Nicole Wood, Peoria Public Schools executive director of primary education. “We’re getting a little bit of a jumpstart because we really did have to think differently over the course of the past year.”

Arnitria Shaw, dean of college and career readiness at Illinois Central College, echoed this statement, especially in relation to virtual learning opportunities.

“We’re looking at designing and implementing non-traditional, innovative, and/or virtual learning options for students to earn high school, career, and early college credit,” said Shaw. “Something that sounded very ambitious in spring or fall of 2019 [and] 2020, now it just seems like the natural next thing to do.”

Planning leader Cheryl Sanfilip concluded the presentation by emphasizing the importance of flexibility when adopting the plan and unity when taking action.

“The strategic plan unites a district and a community...because we’re all working for one vision with one set of values, and our idea is to realize those steps,” said Sanfilip. “The excitement of this is to see people come together and to live these values.”

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