Kent schools chief promotes district strategy plan

Kent Schools Superintendent Edward Lee Vargas emphasized at a Kent Chamber of Commerce luncheon the importance of the district's new strategic plan now under development. Vargas covered many topics during his State of the School District speech at the Nov. 3 event at the Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent. But the strategic plan for the next decade looms as a key project.

Kent School Superintendent Edward Lee Vargas delivers his state of the school district address during the Nov. 3 Kent Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Kent School Superintendent Edward Lee Vargas delivers his state of the school district address during the Nov. 3 Kent Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Kent Schools Superintendent Edward Lee Vargas emphasized at a Kent Chamber of Commerce luncheon the importance of the district’s new strategic plan now under development.

Vargas covered many topics during his State of the School District speech at the Nov. 3 event at the Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent. But the strategic plan for the next decade looms as a key project. The school board is expected to review the plan in January.

“The strategic plan is our roadmap for the future,” said Vargas, who has been with the Kent School District since spring of 2009.

A 65-member steering committee started work in September to come up with a plan. The committee includes parents, students, business people, school district administrators, teachers, college representatives, school board members, nonprofit foundation members and clergy.

“We are asking the community what they want to see in schools,” Vargas said. “We want this to be a community strategic plan and make sure we reflect the community’s wishes and bring out the voice of the community.”

The plan will serve to help students compete in a global world.

“We need to prepare our kids for the future and place students not adults at the center,” said Vargas, the 2006 California Superintendent of the Year. “We have real challenges ahead. Our kids are not just challenging kids from Seattle or Texas but kids from China, Singapore and all over the world.”

Students are in school about six hours per day for 180 days per year or about 20 percent of their time, the superintendent said.

“We have to provide the most productive teaching and learning experience we can,” he said.

Vargas explained that the strategic plan needs to be accomplished despite budget shortfalls. The district cut its 2010-11 budget by $3.9 million.

“We have to be financially accountable and learn how to do more with less,” Vargas said.

The district has a $325 million budget this school year. State revenue covers about 65 to 70 percent of the budget. Kent is part of a lawsuit with other districts against the state to improve basic funding. Vargas said an inequity also exists in state funding.

“If Kent got the average of what some other districts receive, we would have $13 million more in our budget,” he said.

Vargas said voters helped the district in February when they approved the district’s replacement maintenance and operations levy that funds 20 percent of the district’s budget as well as the approval of the replacement technology levy.

The district wants to prepare students for college and help give them the skills needed for a variety of careers, many of which involve technology.

“Our schools were developed during the era when people would go to work on farms or in factories,” Vargas said. “Those models are no longer relevant and we need to think different about education.”

That’s one of the reasons Vargas supports the development of a strategic plan for the next decade.

“Education is everyone’s business,” he said. “Great schools equals great students equals a great future workforce equals great business.”

For more information about the district’s strategic plan, go to www.kent.k12.wa.us.


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