Oak Ridge Schools Strategic Plan 2020: Promoting Achievement and Accountability

This is the third post in a six-part series recognizing the state finalists and overall Grand Prize winner of the Tri-State Best Practices contest.  Our previous posts featured Alabama state finalists Eufaula City Schools and Muscle Shoals City Schools.


Preparing students for college, career, and life success is a balancing act. School systems not only have to ensure they have an engaging curriculum that addresses the needs of all types of learners, they also must make sure they safely transport students to and from school, serve nutritious meals for students, provide clean and safe facilities, keep parents informed, etc.  The list goes on and on.  In short, they must strategically plan to meet the current and future needs of their students, staff, and communities.  Oak Ridge Schools (ORS), one of the Tennessee finalists in the Tri-State Best K-12 Practices contest, is doing just that with their strategic plan.

Origins of the Oak Ridge Strategic Plan 2020

Superintendent Bruce Borchers, in partnership with educators, administrators, and community members, began the development The Oak Ridge Strategic Plan 2020 in 2016.  The team created a district mission and vision and identified goals for improvement in five critical areas:

  1. Academic Excellence:  World class, balanced curriculum and instruction focused on student achievement
  2. Educator Excellence: Committed, innovative and qualified educators the direct link to our students
  3. Learning Environment Excellence:  Safe, secure and effective environment, classrooms and infrastructure that promote learning 
  4. Operational Excellence:  Excellence in the administration, application, operation, and accountable stewardship of our valued educational resources to meet student needs 
  5. Stakeholder Excellence:  A strong family, community and school partnership that values and supports excellence in education

The team meets monthly to review Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that measure the progress on each goal. Each goal has an assigned owner.  The owner reports on the goal to the board of education monthly and reports on the goals to the community annually.  As a result, every department and every school community are afforded the opportunity to actively engage in the success of all students. 

Celebrating Successes and Identifying Opportunities to Improve

ORS students are recognized for successes in post-secondary opportunities and problem-based learning

The ORS Strategic Plan 2020 (Oak Ridge 2020) goals for academic, educator, learning environment, operational and stakeholder excellence are all measured quantitatively and tracked on scorecards.  Examples of quantitative measures include percentage of teachers implementing projects/problem based learning opportunities (academic excellence goal), percentage of teachers retained from previous year (educator excellence goal), percentage of buses equipped with operable cameras and radios (learning environment excellence), average resolution time for completion of staff help desk tickets (operational excellence goal), and number of advisory council meetings held each year (stakeholder excellence goal),   Met goals are celebrated.  For example, students were recognized for being certified in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator as part of the academic excellence goal of promoting critical thinking skills and problem-based learning.  Improvement opportunities and strategies are identified for goals that are not met.  The ORS team identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to improvement in each area.  When goals for student progress in math were not met, ORS reached out to outside experts for assistance.  The result is a best practice that enhances stakeholder engagement, increases organizational transparency, and promotes achievement and accountability.

Why We Like This Entry

While most if not all school systems have a strategic plan, the Oak Ridge 2020 goes beyond what is typically developed and includes Key Performance Indicators, a balanced scorecard, and planned celebrations of success.  Oak Ridge has set in place an effective structure for continuous improvement.

  • Goals are clearly identified and communicated.  The scorecard provides a very clear delineation of goals and whether they have been met. Information is clear-cut rather than confusing to stakeholders (students, staff, community members, etc.) 
  • Each goal has a designated owner.  The identification of responsible parties makes improvements much more attainable.
  • Each goal is monitored, adjusted, and improved annually under the direction of district leaders.
  • Successes/wins are celebrated and keep stakeholders motivated to continue achieving excellence.

ORS uses scorecards to track and report progress toward goals and objectives.

Meeting Their Mission

The community of stakeholders that developed Oak Ridge 2020 created and lives by this mission to prepare each student for excellence in education and the workplace.  As superintendent Borchers remarks, “This Strategic Plan is all about continuous improvement and achieving excellence in education.  It is an important and detailed framework for ORS that envisions our future and sets strategic goals to realize that future.” 

Oak Ridge Schools Best Practices Award check presentation at Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) Legislative Conference. From L-R: Byron Headrick, Holly Cross (Supervisor of Career Readiness and Communications), Bruce Lay (Executive Director of School Leadership), Sherri Headrick

Congratulations Oak Ridge Schools for Your Award Winning entry.  We applaud you for strategic planning process and execution that promotes achievement, engagement, transparency, and accountability.




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Oak Ridge and Warren County are the Tennessee Finalists!

Alabama may reign as the National Champion in football, but there is stiff competition coming from Tennessee for the overall grand prize winner of the Tri-State Best K-12 Practices contest.  In the presence of 75+ Tennessee Directors of Schools and Superintendents, the two Tennessee Finalists were revealed at the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) Legislative and Learning Conference.  [The two Alabama finalists were revealed at the Alabama Association of School Board‘s (AASB) Winter Conference in December.  Click here for information on contest winners Eufaula City Schools and Muscle Shoals City Schools.  Louisiana finalists will be revealed later this spring.]

The winning entries — “Strategic Plan 2020” from Oak Ridge Schools and “STEM Education Program” from Warren County Schools – were selected as the “BEST of the Best Practices” submitted from a diverse and competitive field of high quality Tennessee school system entries.

In the 2nd year of this contest in Tennessee — sponsored by TOSS and LEAN Frog — these two EXCEPTIONAL entries were publicly recognized, and each received a $1,000 cash prize.  Both entries will compete against the contest finalists from Alabama (co-sponsored with the Alabama Association of School Boards/AASB) and from Louisiana (co-sponsored with the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents/LASS) for the Grand Prize of $4,000.  The Grand Prize winner will be recognized at a school board meeting so the local community can share in the school system’s recognition for positively impacting student achievement and promoting the effective and efficient use of public resources.

The Oak Ridge Schools’ “Strategic Plan 2020” was initiated by Superintendent Bruce Borchers in 2016 in cooperation with educators, administrators, and community members.  This insightful plan is designed to achieve five strategic goals: academic excellence, educator excellence, learning environment excellence, operational excellence, and stakeholder excellence.  Each strategic goal has a designated owner.  Each goal is monitored and measured with specific quantitative measures.  ORS uses a scorecard system to track each goal and their associated Key Performance Indicators.  As goals are met they are celebrated throughout the school system. Each goal report is shared with the Oak Ridge Board of Education and the community and new/revised goals and strategies for the next year’s improvements are created based upon analysis and input.   This collaborative Best Practice has promoted stakeholder engagement, transparency, and accountability as ORS prepares students for college, career, and life success.

from L-R: Byron Headrick, Holly Cross (ORS Supervisor of Career Readiness and Communications), Bruce Lay (ORS Executive Director of School Leadership), Sherri Headrick

Warren County Schools partnered with business and industry to develop a comprehensive STEM program centered around Mechatronics-a blend of electronics, mechanics, and computer/processor control technologies critical in manufactured products and the manufacturing process.  Working with local industry and the Tennessee Department of Education, WCS created a Mechatronics Pathway curriculum.  Program enhancements now include robotic stimulators in all schools and the “STEM on Wheels” lab that transports robotic equipment and 3-D printing to the schools.  This successful Best Practice has helped students develop system critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and begins a career path in engineering and industrial manufacturing through the earning of the Level 1 Siemens Mechatronics Industry Certification.

From L to R: Byron Headrick, Bobby Cox (WCS Director of Schools), Sherri Headrick

This year’s Tennessee entries included a wide-range of Best Practices — from a mobile summer feeding program to blended educational opportunities in a suburban/rural area to identifying and helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in postsecondary education.  We thank all of those who took the time to enter the contest and we applaud all your efforts on behalf of the students in Tennessee public schools!

Stay tuned for detailed posts on each finalist from Alabama, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

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