Strong in Every Way: First Annual Review
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Submitted
In November 2016, Zionsville Community Schools (ZCS) launched the “Strong in Every Way” (SIEW) human capital campaign with a core focus on growth. After a full school year of implementation, we sat down with Dr. Scott Robison, superintendent of ZCS, to discuss what passed; what, if anything, failed; and what areas need improvement?
“We [administrators] are in the process of determining where we go next with each of the three SIEW domains,” Robison explained. “The three domains of SIEW are Developing Connections, Developing Assets & Resources and Developing Cultural Understandings. SIEW is that human piece that we’ve added to our obligations as an organization to ensure that we’re good stewards of taxpayers’ resources.”
Currently, ZCS and Carmel Clay Schools in Hamilton County are the two lowest-funded school districts in Indiana and are the only two with the highest credit ratings in the state.
“It’s just good management of resources,” Robison said. “We’re telling the story, so that people see that there is a ton of planning and action going on, and the human component about student growth is the core mission. We have to be as transparent as possible, so that people will hopefully say that we’re doing a good job and doing the right things with SIEW.”
An area that is still a “work in progress,” according to Robison, is the awareness creation of SIEW throughout the community and not just among students’ families.
“I’m never going to be satisfied until everybody has a ‘Strong in Every Way’ sticker in their window, but we’re probably still in the middle of the awareness creation phase. I think we have a lot of folks who are not aware of what we’re up to yet, and that’s still on us to keep talking about it.”
Robison cited some of the early SIEW victories but emphasized that SIEW will never be a battle that is won.
“SIEW is about building human capacity, and each time we have a new student, we have more human capacity to build,” he said. “One of the fun things about this is that it always renews in the version of the next cohort of kids coming through the ZCS district. In terms of ‘victories,’ the $670,000 Lilly Endowment Grant for the retooling of our PreK-12 counseling program is the biggest piece of traction so far.”
Other SIEW impacts that were accomplished during the 2017-18 school year include, but are not limited to, Derek Peterson’s multiple visits to work with all employees, students and parents; multiple student and parent focus groups about cultural conditions and counseling program input; STEM Nights in all elementary schools; “Parenting in the Digital Age” speaker and panel discussion series for parents; and the change to the high school schedule for the 2018-19 school year.
“The American public high school is one of the most overregulated realms on the planet,” Robison stated. “Kids feel that and often feel like they’re in a factory model because that is an efficient way to organize the educational process. This sometimes leads to stress and so on. A group of incredibly smart people at the high school developed a schedule for the upcoming school year that gives the students some notion of flexibility within their week while allowing the teachers to teach what is required and ensures a good supervision structure, so that the place isn’t up for grabs. It’s tremendously ingenious what this group came up with. It’s been a tough and multi-year heavy lift, so I am excited for it, and it will be productive for the kids.”
Robison admitted that SIEW isn’t anywhere close to a complete manifestation as being the training vehicle for coping skills, resiliency, developing human connections and understanding diversity and cultural differences, but he is confident that people are beginning to understand that is the direction that SIEW is moving toward.
“It’s coming together,” Robison said. “We knew it would be a multi-year process, but SIEW is part of the water we drink now. We build capacity, and when we develop deeper connections, we all grow. Leadership and connecting capacity really is a tide that elevates all ships.”
Be sure to register for the inaugural 2018 Strong in Every Way Community Challenge on July 28. The SIEW Community Challenge is patterned after similar Corporate Challenge events but is modified, so ALL community members over the age of 5 can participate. This year’s “friend-raiser” will focus on building webs of support within the community, promoting wellness and developing community pride. There will be food trucks serving lunch and snacks, a kids’ zone provided for downtime and an awards ceremony. For event information, location and registration, visit programs.zionsvilleeaglerec.com.