Strategic Planning – GLPS2025

Our district is embarking on a strategic planning process that will intersect with the work of our human-centered design project and provide us with a flexible road map that will guide us through the year 2025.

KnowledgeWorks and other organizations that look into the future of education have forecasted “a decade of deep disruption for education of the scope that Amazon brought to retail and that iTunes brought to the music industry.” Without a strategic plan to guide us through these disruptive changes and keep us focused on the human-center of teaching and learning, we would be nothing more than an aimless organization with one foot mired in the past and the other reacting to change rather than keeping one step ahead of it.

strategic-planning-03I’ve posted often on our Steelcase Foundation-supported, human-centered design work that is one-quarter of the way through the project of identifying from a user point-of-view what works best for our students and families, and what do we need to re-design for their greater success. You can read those posts in this blog. Our strategic planning work will be just as transparent and we’ll be asking for input from staff, students and parents as we walk through this process over the next six months. Our goal is to have a final draft plan in place by the start of the 2016-17 school year. It will be flexible and responsive to any needed modifications that keep us moving in the right direction over the next decade.

The schedule of work for our Board of Education is outlined here:

Monday, February 8, 7:00 pm – finalize and approve the schedule of work sessions and retreats during its regular board meeting

Monday, February 29, 6:00 pm – a special work session for the Board and Administrative team to view and discuss the award-winning documentary film, Most Likely to Succeed, and to receive an overview of the work of our HCD21 (human-centered design) project

how-is-strategic-planning-carried-out-at-different-levels-of-the-organisation-1-638Saturday, March 12, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm – Board/Administrative Team data retreat (Where are we now and how did we get here?)

Saturday, April 23, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm – Board/Administrative Team vision retreat (Where are we going vs. where should we be going?)

Saturday, June 18, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm – Board/Administrative Team setting direction retreat (How will we get there and how will we know we are getting there?)

Monday, August 15, 6:00 pm – a special work session to finalize the draft plan

During each intersession between these scheduled activities, we’ll be asking for stakeholder feedback from staff, parents as well as student focus groups. Here’s a summary of what the feedback may entail:

  • Strategic method: SWOT analysisAfter the data retreat, feedback on our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT)
  • After the vision retreat, feedback on the proposed vision, mission, values and beliefs
  • After the setting direction retreat, feedback on goals and strategies
  • Feedback on the alignment/intersection of the proposed strategic plan, HCD21 findings, and school improvement plans
  • Feedback on the final draft plan

The work of our HCD21 team is focused on what we believe is a responsibility to redesign our district, schools, classrooms and the work we do within each to better meet the needs of our students, families and community in a rapidly changing world.

mitroff.fig1_The work in developing our GLPS2025 strategic plan will take note of where we’ve come from, where we are today, and how we will traverse this changing world in the future. Combined, they will shine a bright light on how we might facilitate and expand a more relevant range of learning opportunities for our students, given the diminishing financial resources we continue to experience coupled with greater challenges faced by our students, teachers and the community at large.

These critical processes have the potential for setting our school district out ahead of the curve serving as a leader in innovation and academic success. It’s our ultimate goal to better prepare our children for a world very different from the one we grew up in, providing them with learning opportunities and skills they need to be successful in whatever endeavor they choose.

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HCD21 Update: Gaining Emapthy

For the past 124-plus years, education has pretty much been designed and directed from the adult point-of-view. What gets taught and how it’s taught has been decided by school teachers and administrators. Of course lately, many politically-elected leaders and wealthy individuals with money behind them have weighed in on this, to the point that our K-12 education system has become a quilt of many adult-driven initiatives and personal agendas that for the most part make little or no sense to children and their parents. Most of those add-ons, policies, and newfangled ideas hinder student and teacher success; few do anything to improve the learning process.

Just because we realize this doesn’t mean we have the answers that will make our schools more learning-focused. The human-centered design journey we have embarked on to find solutions requires that we learn from the lives of others and gain key insights into what is working in our schools and what is not. Along the way, we also hope to generate some ideas or concepts that have not existed before. In other words, the mission of our design-thinking process is to observe the key stakeholders in our district — students, families, and educators — and translate those observations into insights which eventually will lead us to new processes and structures.

According to Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO, one of the leading human-centered design organizations in the world:

Empathy is the mental habit that moves us beyond thinking of people as laboratory rats or standard deviations [data points]. If we are to “borrow” the lives of other people to inspire new ideas, we need to begin by recognizing that their seemingly inexplicable behaviors represent different strategies for coping with the confusing, complex, and contradictory world in which they live.

We build these bridges of insight through empathy, the effort to see the world through the eyes of others, understand the world through their experiences, and feel the world through their emotions.

This phase of our journey is helping us to do just that. With small teams of 3 or 4 team members meeting with families in their homes, we’re able to get an oral and visual peak into their world and how they view the community, our schools, their children’s education, the future, and the world in general. The results of our visits are being captured in a broad data-base and we’re meeting periodically as a whole team to analyze the results, determine patterns, and begin to tell a complete story of what education in the Godfrey-Lee district is and could or should be. Our work with the interviews will take the team until the end of this trimester when we’ll spend upwards of ten hours over two days in early March gaining clarity from these insights.

What’s even more exciting is a parallel process that got underway this past week. A handful of teachers met with our leadership coach, Dave Koetje, along with myself and Assistant Superintendent Carol Lautenbach, to get a view of the work of the HCD21 team but to also look at design thinking from the classroom teacher-student learning relationship. We have two more of these initial orientation sessions coming up in the next couple weeks and hope to use them as a springboard to spread the concept of design thinking across the district. The potential for intertwining our district-wide focus with individual classrooms exploring design thinking in daily activities is exciting and can only serve as a strong leverage to putting our school district out front in providing a relevant, engaging learning system that puts the future needs of our students at the front of everything we do.

What’s next? Brown points out that, “The process of synthesis — the ordering of data and the search for patterns — can be frustrating as important decisions seem to ride on the most insubstantial hunches.” In other words, we’ll be moving ahead but the process will not be as clear as we would like it to be and for many of us, it will be downright uncomfortable at first. From the data we’re collecting through the interviews, eventual focus groups, and secondary researcher, many ideas will come to mind as we look for ways to prototype and test some of our shared solutions. Normally, humans are prone to take the inputs from around them and converge upon a single answer. I see and hear this all the time when teachers or parents are frustrated by what’s going on and they want to boil it all down to, “What’s the solution?” “Just tell me what you want me to do!” But design thinking done right wants to explore many options and create choices for solutions that can be tested against each other so that “the outcome will be bolder, more creatively disruptive, and more compelling.”

Good ideas first require lots of ideas. This is called divergent thinking, something young children do almost intuitively if left to themselves and a pile of something to make or play with. Just watch them with a large cardboard packing box and the freedom to do what they want with it. Over time, however, we have been trained away from this by being presented with lots of material and ideas in formal classrooms and expected to boil it down to the right answer on the test. This is what was expected of western culture education in the 19th and early 20th century. The jobs our kids will be seeking in the future will require more divergent thinking and to redesign our educational system, we’ll need to do the same.

As March draws near, I’ll be sharing with you the results of our interviews and secondary research in a way that will allow you to crowd share with us your thoughts as we analyze, identify patterns, and put the story together. We’ll also hold a number of public sessions as the next school year gets underway to bring you up to speed and gain your help in prototyping and design solutions.

Links to previous posts on our HCD21 redesign project:

Mlive article:


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Remove the “Gag Order” Completely

Today I sent the following message to our State senator and representative.

Sen. MacGregor and Rep. Hooker:

I’m sure by now you know that our school district does not support the recently signed “gag bill” that prevents me and other officials from informing our community about the facts behind a millage or bond election within 60 days of the vote.

Protecting voters’ rights and ensuring that we have an informed electorate is an important responsibility that my school district and I take very seriously. Public Act 269 will have a major impact on the ability of local governments and school districts to respond to local millages and bond questions. The original law already prohibited public funds being used for propaganda. This legislation bans sharing factual and unbiased information, and leaves voters in the dark. It also opens them up to very biased opinions from organizations that oppose any form of taxation or public education.

I am also very concerned with how these changes were created which was, in part, the result of a lack of information. The version of the bill approved by the House and Senate never had a single hearing. In the dark of night, in the waning hours of the legislative session, the legislation went from 12 pages long to 53 pages long – and then was approved by a majority of lawmakers before anyone had a chance to testify about the impact of this provision.

As Governor Snyder indicated when he gave in and signed the “gag bill,” legislation has recently been introduced as an attempt to “clarify” the intention of this new law. The proposal (House Bill 5219) as written DOES NOT PROVIDE school districts the ability to communicate necessary factual information to voters. I am asking that you oppose this legislation and instead support a complete repeal of the 60-day gag order.

Please stand up for the citizens in my school district by ensuring that they get all of the information needed before they go to the polls, including factual and unbiased information from schools and local governments.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to your response.

David Britten, Superintendent


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Stopping for School Bus

Operators of motor vehicles (cars, trucks, etc.) have a responsibility to know and follow state law on when to stop for a school bus loading or discharging passengers. These rules exist to ensure the safety of children. Godfrey-Lee Public Schools employs external video cameras on our buses to note when drivers disregard the laws and pass buses that have signaled them to stop with the two (2) alternating red flashers. Violators captured on video are reported to the Wyoming Public Safety Department.

flickr-school-busIgnorance of the law or failing to stop because you may have been distracted are not valid reasons for jeopardizing the safety of our youngsters. We expect that citizens operating motor vehicles will do so responsibly and pay attention to the activity going on around them.

For your convenience, here is the applicable state code. If you have questions or don’t understand it, please feel free to call our Operations and Transportation Supervisor whose office is in the Early Childhood Center, or you can contact the City of Wyoming Public Safety Department.

Act 300 of 1949

257.682 Stopping for school bus displaying flashing red lights; violation as civil infraction; meeting stopped school bus on divided highway; proof; rebuttable presumption; community service.

Sec. 682.

(1) The operator of a vehicle overtaking or meeting a school bus that has stopped and is displaying 2 alternately flashing red lights located at the same level shall bring the vehicle to a full stop not less than 20 feet from the school bus and shall not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer actuated. The operator of a vehicle who fails to stop for a school bus as required by this subsection, who passes a school bus in violation of this subsection, or who fails to stop for a school bus in violation of an ordinance that is substantially similar to this subsection, is responsible for a civil infraction.

(2) The operator of a vehicle upon a highway that has been divided into 2 roadways by leaving an intervening space, or by a physical barrier, or clearly indicated dividing sections so constructed as to impede vehicular traffic, is not required to stop upon meeting a school bus that has stopped across the dividing space, barrier, or section.

(3) In a proceeding for a violation of subsection (1), proof that the particular vehicle described in the citation was in violation of subsection (1), together with proof that the defendant named in the citation was, at the time of the violation, the registered owner of the vehicle, constitutes a rebuttable presumption that the registered owner of the vehicle was the driver of the vehicle at the time of the violation.

(4) In addition to the civil fine and costs provided for a civil infraction under section 907, the judge, district court referee, or district court magistrate may order a person who violates this section to perform not more than 100 hours of community service at a school.
History: 1949, Act 300, Eff. Sept. 23, 1949 ;– Am. 1956, Act 48, Eff. Aug. 11, 1956 ;– Am. 1957, Act 284, Eff. Sept. 27, 1957 ;– Am. 1958, Act 160, Eff. Sept. 13, 1958 ;– Am. 1962, Act 92, Eff. Mar. 28, 1963 ;– Am. 1963, Act 149, Eff. Sept. 6, 1963 ;– Am. 1969, Act 240, Eff. Mar. 20, 1970 ;– Am. 1978, Act 510, Eff. Aug. 1, 1979 ;– Am. 1979, Act 66, Eff. Aug. 1, 1979 ;– Am. 1982, Act 65, Imd. Eff. Apr. 8, 1982 ;– Am. 1990, Act 188, Eff. Aug. 15, 1990 ;– Am. 2012, Act 263, Imd. Eff. July 3, 2012


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Appreciation for our Board of Education

The Board of Education exists for the purpose of providing a system of free, public education for children in grades K through 12. It is the function of the Board to establish policies and make decisions on the basis of a declared educational philosophy and goals.

The members of our Board of Education include:

Eric Mockerman, President

Dennis Groendyke, Vice President

Tammy Schafer, Secretary

Lynn Velthouse, Treasurer

Robert Baker, Trustee

Rebecca Kibbe, Trustee

David Blok, Trustee

Our Board plays a critical role in guiding policy development and providing oversight for our school district operations, holding the Superintendent and his staff accountable for the education of our children. As a body, the Board is the voice of the community and takes its role very seriously.

January is annual School Board appreciation month, and we want to express our deepest gratitude for the many hours each board member devotes to this role so your children will have great schools and quality educational experiences.



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Our children are more than test scores

Dear Godfrey-Lee Community:

Earlier this week, the State of Michigan released the M-STEP test results that our children in grades 3 through 8 and 11 completed last spring. We were excited to see the 11th grade English language arts proficiency rate exceeded the statewide average, as well as the 8th grade proficiency rate that came very near the statewide average. The overall percentage of students who tested proficient in English language arts increases at each grade level from 3rd through the 11th grade, which highlights the fact our older students have had more exposure to the new Common Core curriculum adopted by the state several years ago. Science and social studies scores also demonstrated a positive trend.

Your school principal as well as your child’s teacher can share his or her scores with you but you can check out our school and grade-level scores at All students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 completed the math and English language arts tests, while students in grades 5, 8 and 11 also took the social studies test and students in grades 4, 7 and 11 completed the science test. The scores provide us with a new baseline to begin making some modifications to our curriculum, teaching, and learning practices in the coming months. Students will take these tests again this coming spring (although the state will make changes to the test that will make it difficult to compare last year to this year) and each year thereafter.

It is important to remember that your child’s learning, abilities and strengths cannot be reduced to a simple test score taken once each year. In fact, I find it insulting to think that students can be evaluated and ranked solely on a single test score. Our children are much more than test scores! Most of what your child learns in school and the vast majority of learning activities he or she participates in are not measurable by a computer-scored test. While reading, writing and math are important, the most crucial lessons your child learns that will have an impact on the future are what we term “the 5-Cs:” Communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and caring for others as well as themselves. These skills are what colleges and employers look for in 21st century degree programs and careers. They also provide your child with the solid foundation needed for lifelong learning, raising a family, and civic engagement within their communities.

Education reform since 2001 has been steering schools in the wrong direction, with politicians and policymakers, who do not necessarily understand the purpose and complexity of the learning process, at the helm. That is why we have taken on a challenge at Godfrey-Lee to fully evaluate our system and programs from a human-centered design approach (we call it HCD21), with the goal of identifying what is most important for the future success of our children and how we can reshape and redesign our classrooms, schools and learning systems to meet their needs. In the end, the least of our concerns is what’s being measured by superficial and largely inaccurate tests such as the M-STEP, the ACT, or the SAT. We’ll continue to evaluate our students holistically based on their growth in learning across content, the arts, physical education, health, world languages, technology and the critical 5-Cs mentioned above.

I look forward to a continuing partnership with the entire Godfrey-Lee community in this journey.


David Britten, Superintendent

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HCD21 update: Identifying what makes our day difficult

You spend twenty-two years in military service retiring as a field grade officer in a combined-arms brigade, and you can’t help but think about vision and mission from an operational planning viewpoint. Aside from understanding the overall mission inside and out, one of the most important planning steps is to know the “enemy situation.” You make a thorough study, consistent with your operational level, of what is out there that can pretty much ruin your day. Knowing whom you face and what they are able to throw at you can make a significant difference between failure and success. And along with that is to understand the climate, terrain, and other forces of nature or man that might impede your progress.

When I retired from active duty and jumped from the frying pan into the fire as a public school administrator, I realized that the tenants of successful operational planning didn’t really change much. However, I now tend to take a different view of the so-called enemy situation, softening and broadening the scope of awareness to not only include the external forces working against us, but the internal forces as well. I learned from a former U.S. Army Ranger that in the civilian world, it’s more appropriate to call it “MODD,” things or people that “make our day difficult.**”  MODD is simply, “whatever gets in the way of accomplishing your goal,” both internally and externally.  And it’s understood in any military organization that until you have adequately dealt with the internal MODD, you won’t be very effective in dealing with external MODD.

In K-12 public education, we tend to give short shrift to MODD preferring instead to bull our way through some obstacle either by demanding more from those on our side, being critical of those who might be opposing us, and latching on to another “flavor of the month” initiative in hopes that piling on or expecting more will get us to our goal. But it doesn’t, at least not nearly as effectively had we dealt with our MODD in the first place. Every soldier knows that just throwing friendly forces at the combat mission won’t necessarily prove successful if the leaders in particular haven’t done their job fully understanding what the MODD can throw back at you in return. In public education, MODD is what holds us back from finally throwing off the shackles of our 19th century industrial model of schooling and moving forward with a model that best fulfills what is required to achieve our 21st century mission.

Human-centered design (HCD or preferably HCD21 as we are calling it in our district as its being used as a tool under a generous Steelcase Foundation grant) provides a structured process for identifying and understanding the internal and external MODD that restricts the change process. At the same time, it also provides clarity of the mission and what operational measures may be needed to achieve it. Public education is a process based on human nature and for more than a century, we have more or less defined it by policies, funding levels, physical structures, and programs that create both internal and external MODD, making it difficult to stay focused on the key operational component: the learning relationship between teacher and student. Not all of the structures are MODD and may in fact, when applied with empathy and the right purpose, enhance that critical relationship. For instance, one might assume that given the past fourteen years, assessment should be at the top of the list of MODD. After all, the United States has become infamous in the misuse of high stakes testing results taking up precious learning time and reducing the morale of teachers and students to a level never before seen in education. However, only bad assessments and the misuse of assessment results should be considered MODD as assessment done well and for the right reason can actual propel the teacher-student relationship.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 6.56.01 AM

Aside from assessments done wrong, MODD can include interpersonal conflicts, inefficiencies in how we operate our schools and programs, negative or self-deceiving messages or perceptions, self-doubt, arrogance, fear of reprisal, or problems that don’t always show themselves but sap the energy and emotional levels of staff, students and parents. These represent the internal things that make our day difficult and preclude us from making the changes we need to be successful. Externally, MODD includes but is not limited to aggressive behaviors from politicians, wrong-headed reformers, misinformed media, or even new technologies, curriculum mandates, funding decisions, and the economy that may negatively impact support for public education or create problems for students and their families.

The first key step, then, of HCD21 is to better understand our MODD by getting to know people (our stakeholders including the key users of our schools) and the context within our which our district operates as we desire to produce high results and achieve our mission of educating every child within our system. That process is underway including conversations with staff, interviews with families, and gathering secondary research to better clarify the context. These activities, when understood through synthesis and pattern finding, help to give us a 360-degree view of the terrain and conditions and will identify our MODD while helping refine the problem statement. This will create a more solid foundation for exploration, creation, prototyping, testing and scaling solutions to raise the level of success for everyone involved with our district’s mission.

Not all MODD is necessarily a threat that must be dispatched in order for us to be successful. Sometimes, it’s perfectly fine to accept that some forms of MODD will certainly make the job more difficult, but trying to eliminate it may be impossible or just not worth the time and other resources. That’s where it’s important to fully understand the types of MODD we face and perhaps explore how others have been able to ignore it while achieving their goals. We have to be willing to take risks and avoid having problems that we encounter create paralysis and inaction. Freezing up on the battlefield will do more than make our day difficult. Should we encounter MODD along the way – and we will – it will be important to the success of our mission (and futures of our students) to make sure we understand what it is, what impact it can have on our success, and whether throwing scarce additional resources at it is worth the effort.

And my final point: it is far more important in our pursuit of excellence, and the educational structure needed to give every one of our students the best chance at future success, to fix problems while avoiding fixing blame. Once we gain better clarity and understanding through our HCD21 project, it will be ever more important that we all come together as a team and focus on solutions.

Let me close by simply saying, Merry Christmas to everyone in our Godfrey-Lee community and best wishes for the coming New Year.

** I first learned the term MODD while reading Rangers Lead the Way: The Army Rangers’ Guide to Leading Your Organization Through Chaos, by Dean Hohl and Maryann Karinch. Adams Media Corporation, MA. 2003. It felt like a much better way to term those things I normally considered the enemy situation when working in civilian organizations, especially those charged with preparing children for their future.
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