DMUSD dares to think different with District Design

The Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) is set to uncover how to make education look “radically different” with its District Design through 2022. The District Design, formerly known as the strategic plan, aims to create a vision for what’s next for today’s student. DMUSD Superintendent Holly McClurg said it’s an exciting process to develop a completely new design for the future that reflects not just what students need academically but what they need from the whole school experience to make it more meaningful.

A District Design team has been composed of leaders in education and the community that will meet in the coming months. The first meeting will be held on Thursday, March 30 at 5 p.m. at the district office, followed by meetings on April 24 and May 11. The team includes a mix of voices such as innovators in industry, CEOs of companies, entrepreneurs, educators from universities, politicians and parents.

“The team will bring different perspectives and innovative ideas to get at a much more well-rounded vision to help define and articulate the actions the district needs to take,” McClurg said. “By the end of the spring, we will have a clearly articulated vision that defines our path for the next several years.”

McClurg said that if one really looks at the school experience 100 years ago compared to today, it wasn’t all that different. Children come to school and sit in a classroom, usually with desks, they go the library, they eat lunch and they go home with homework. When DMUSD says “radically different,” they mean they are looking at changing all of those pieces, including their own jobs in the old traditional leadership structure.

“When we talk about change, this is change that is better,” McClurg said.

She said the district will always focus on academic instruction, on creating great writers and readers and “fearless mathematicians,” but they also know from everything they have researched over the last four years that children need a school experience that is different from the traditional model.

“We really know from everything we’ve done, school must look different for our kids,” McClurg said. “We believe that school will be obsolete if we don’t do things differently and better.”

DMUSD Assistant Superintendent Jason Romero said, it’s about ensuring that students are “excited, inspired and energized” from the first minute of the first day of school to the last minute of school that day and to the last day of that year. He said the district has to determine whether it is providing an experience that keeps that level of creativity and inquiry throughout the whole school day and year.

“We have a very successful system in Del Mar according to a traditional rubric and measures. The industry is asking for a different type of student to emerge from our educational system, so that’s a new rubric, that’s a new way of measuring how we do business in education,” DMUSD Assistant Superintendent Shelley Petersen said. “What we will be focusing on over the next three meetings is District Design. It’s not just in the classroom and how it looks different supporting that really innovative, radically different instructional model and school experience. It’s more than just how we teach math. It’s the entire way we operate from the moment children walk in our doors at 7:45 a.m. to the time they leave at 2:45 p.m. How is that different?”

Petersen said talking about “different” is what’s trending now in education, with buzzwords like innovators, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning and maker spaces.

“Our mission is to set out to define what those mean and create a system that embraces the important parts and makes it more than just a lot of buzzwords in an old system,” Petersen said.