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Reflecting on the Year and Preparing for What’s Next


Posted December 21, 2017


In 2017, FourPoint has been proud to partner with organizations across the country to improve outcomes for students, schools and communities. As we close out the year, we asked a few clients to share their biggest accomplishments and hopes for the New Year. Read on for reflections from Mary Anne-Schmitt Carey from Say Yes to Education, Anne-Marie Twohie from Fairfax County’s Office for Children, and Dr. Tawana Grover from Grand Island Public Schools.

What was your organization’s biggest achievement in 2017? What is your team celebrating this year?

The biggest achievement of our district was the development of our five-year strategic plan. For so long, we were trying to fulfill our mission, but with no clear route or signals to show if we were getting close or off the path. Now, through the work of strategic planning, we have four pillars that any staff member can identify, eight objectives and eleven goals. Staff are excited to see the plan take root in the building and the classroom levels and are owning student achievement like never before—using data to plan collaboratively and allowing students to own their learning in a more standards-based instructional approach.

Dr. Tawana Grover, Superintendent, Grand Island Public Schools

In 2017, Say Yes to Education celebrated its 30th anniversary. Over those three decades, our organization has gone from supporting several hundred young people (in a half dozen small cohorts) on the pathway to postsecondary readiness and success, to partnering with entire communities to ensure they have sustainable systems, structures and capacity to help all young people realize the dream of a achieving a college degree or other postsecondary credential.

This year, Say Yes also celebrated the sustained impact of its long-term, local partnerships in Syracuse and Buffalo on the lives of young people, their families and their communities — with each partnership continuing to notch sharp increases (since their inception, in 2008 and 2012, respectively) in high school graduation and college matriculation, as well as the closing of achievement gaps between students of color and white students.

In addition to celebrating its past and present iterations, in 2017, Say Yes also took a big step toward the future. In April, we launched the Weiss Institute, an initiative in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance that seeks to help communities come together to best support young people, preschool to career, on the path to adult success.

Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, Chief Executive Officer, Say Yes to Education

In 2017, Fairfax County’s Office for Children worked with a group of dedicated stakeholders to create an equitable school readiness strategic plan. In a county as big and diverse as Fairfax, we needed a thoughtful strategy for making sure that our school readiness supports—early childhood learning and development opportunities, early developmental screenings, early intervention programs and services, mental and physical health services, and others—are available for children and families who need them most. Through the process, we were able to integrate perspectives from families, early childhood educators, health providers, the school district, county, community-based organizations and business community into a plan that will guide our collective work moving forward. Because so many were involved in the planning, there’s a real sense of ownership of the activities that we’ll be taking on over the next few years – and a real commitment to equity that we look forward to translating to practice.

Anne-Marie Twohie, Director, Fairfax County Office for Children

Reflecting back on 2017, what is your single biggest accomplishment as a leader? What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud to be part of such a committed and dedicated group of people working in this field and to have played some role in helping to develop the equitable school readiness strategic plan. I’m also so appreciative of the leaders around me – members of the board of supervisors and school board, my colleagues on the planning team, and my colleagues at OCF – and for their continued commitment to children and our community.

Anne-Marie Twohie, Director, Fairfax County Office for Children

As a first-year superintendent in a state I hadn’t set foot in before considering this position, I think everyone would agree that surviving to see year two is a huge accomplishment. Now that I’m fully steeped in the role and community, being able to create energy and excitement around a vision and mobilize people in the same direction has been enormous for me as a leader. I can’t point to one leadership style or one specific action I took to get there, but having leaders in our classrooms, schools, and central office say “I’m onboard” is huge.

Dr. Tawana Grover, Superintendent, Grand Island Public Schools

It can be challenging to separate leadership accomplishments from organizational ones. As a leader, I am most proud of the incredible team I have built over the last decade. The range of expertise and, to a person, commitment to humble, servant leadership is enabling us to help many communities build both culture and infrastructure to drive more equitable access to opportunity, and, ultimately, the achievement of the American dream.

Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, Chief Executive Officer, Say Yes to Education

Looking ahead to 2018, what are you most hopeful about in terms of your own or the country’s work to improve educational outcomes for all kids?

Say Yes and the Weiss Institute see 2018 as a time to push even further, and to help build a national field that includes all types of organizations committed to supporting children and youth along the full developmental pathway. We envision a national collaborative that encourages a new civic infrastructure and culture in the spirit of our local partnerships in Buffalo and Syracuse, and the lessons they have taught us.

Finally, in the face of national policy changes (including tax and program cuts) that pose a significant threat to the progress made in recent years, we look to partner with other organizations and communities in the New Year to mount powerful field demonstrations of what is possible through collaborative and comprehensive action.

Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, Chief Executive Officer, Say Yes to Education

With everyone onboard, we’re ready to start implementing our new plan in 2018. We’re taking it back to the community and sharing it widely to get everyone involved in the work. We know that we need to have strong relationships with families, especially, so that we can be sure we’re meeting their needs. We’re expanding things we know are working, aligning and streamlining services and supports, and starting to collect foundational data to guide our work. We have a real opportunity to do great things in 2018, and a lot of energy around making sure we do.

Anne-Marie Twohie, Director, Fairfax County Office for Children

As we approach 2018, I am hopeful that student outcomes and demonstration of learning will be reflected through multiple measures. GIPS has made a district-wide commitment to focusing on three major initiatives and I am optimistic we will see a major return on investment of time, talent and resources. I believe it is critical now more than ever for all of us as educators and educational leaders to recognize the urgent need for high expectations and high-quality learning opportunities for students. Preparing students for success is a win for our students, our community, and the country. I am confident that we will continue to lock arms as accountable educators and embrace equity and excellence for all children.

Dr. Tawana Grover, Superintendent, Grand Island Public Schools

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