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New strategic plan in works for Oswego schools

Oswego 308 Superintendent Matthew Wendt gave state district address before packed gymnasium school staff last week. | Kalyn Belsha~Sun-Times

Oswego 308 Superintendent Matthew Wendt gave a state of the district address before a packed gymnasium of school staff last week. | Kalyn Belsha~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 27, 2014 6:46AM

Oswego School District 308 Superintendent Matthew Wendt has firmly laid out priorities the district won’t be tackling until next school year: the expansion of full-day kindergarten, new school boundaries, revised school start and end times, a move to a middle school model and technology planning.

“There is only so much people can do,” Wendt told school staff packed into Oswego East High’s gymnasium at his state of the district address.

“If Bill Gates himself pulls up in a semi and delivers a laptop for every kid in the district, what we would do with it?” Wendt continued. “We have infrastructure issues that we have to discuss and we have to decide what our future is going to look like.”

Deciding what Oswego District 308’s future will look like will depend in large part on what goes into the district’s new strategic plan, which will be developed this spring.

Board members and administrators are scheduled to meet March 31 to discuss the district’s vision, mission statement and objectives through 2020. Then a task force of 60 to 70 people, including staff, parents and other residents, will create an implementation plan.

The district’s previous strategic plan, which was in place for five years, expired in 2012, Wendt said.

Among the district’s other priorities that will be tackled this year, according to Wendt, is the development of recommendations to improve special education, more district oversight over the English-language learner and gifted education programs and implementation of a new math curriculum with new instructional materials.

Both Oswego’s special education and English-language learner programs are currently under state audit, Wendt said.

The English language arts curriculum will be evaluated, a new website will be unveiled later this year and the district is working to seriously boost dual credit and Advanced Placement options, Wendt said.

Over the last month, the district has heard the results of a special education and gifted education audit. Both audits found that Oswego was following an outdated education model that dated back to the 1970s or ’80s.

Wendt stressed during his speech that the district would not “be able to address everything at once,” but would try to take steps to improve.

He suggested the strategic plan include modest achievement goals, instead of numbers that would be impossible to attain. A possible goal could be to improve math scores by 2 percent a year at the elementary level and 3 percent a year at the high school level through 2020, he said.

Particular attention needs to be paid to the district’s subgroups, said Wendt, who spent several minutes talking about Oswego’s stark achievement gaps along racial and economic lines.

“If you are a white child living in a $300,000 home you’ve got a great chance in 308,” he said. “If you are one of my black students or my Hispanic kids and if you are living in poverty, the chances are not as good.”

Other districts with high numbers of African-American, Hispanic and low-income students are outperforming Oswego, Wendt said, and he wants the district “to go and have conversations with them” to find out why.

He said a task force would be put together to help solve the issue.

“Ladies and gentleman they’re black, they’re not stupid,” he said. “They’re poor, they’re not dumb.”

Oswego sends more high school graduates to Waubonsee Community College than any other district, Wendt said, and when graduates get there many are taking remedial courses.

“It is a problem that I believe all of us can help solve,” he said. “We cannot ask kids to just change, I have to change.”

He said the district may have to change its curriculum design, scheduling and the way staff teach to help struggling students. But part of Wendt’s “mission” also entails changing the mindset at Oswego, he said.

“We need to have the culture that 308 is as good as Naperville [2]04,” Wendt said. “We need to have the attitude that our kids walking our halls are as good.”

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