Melissa Basurto, 16, left, and Jeislinne Arguello, 17, discuss priorities for student learning goals to be incorporated into the Yakima School District strategic plan Monday at Eisenhower High School.

A guiding plan for the Yakima School District is minor tweaks away from approval.

A detailed draft of a six-year plan centered around student learning and promising an equitable, quality education for every Yakima School District student was presented to the board Monday evening. By early next week, it is expected to be approved.

It replaces a five-year plan that expired in 2018 and moves the district in a new direction, with an emphasis on equity.

This is in part because the process started with student feedback that guided the planning process, said Graciela Villanueva, who serves as vice president of the school board.

In September, roughly 120 students across various grades and campuses districtwide expressed interest in common student outcomes:

  • Student self-responsibility and self-discipline
  • Student resilience
  • Engagement and voice
  • Bilingual and biliterate development
  • And readiness for college, career and life

All five concepts students outlined were part of a profile of a Yakima graduate created as a guiding model within the plan, with “critical thinker and problem solver” added to the list.

After meeting with students, the district met with nearly 300 administrators, teachers, business owners and parents to round out the plan.

These conversations resulted in a vision of focusing on every student daily and strengthening the Yakima community through education. The new plan also promises “a safe, equitable, inclusive and quality learning environment so that every student thrives and succeeds.”

Some baseline measures and goals will help guide district progress. For example, by 2026, the draft plan aims to have 19 out of 20 children meet the criteria for kindergarten readiness in cognitive development, literacy and numeracy, compared to just 4 in 20 in 2019. In the same time frame, another goal is to see 95% of students graduate on time, compared to 80% today.

To accomplish these goals, the plan says the district should focus on student learning first and foremost, followed by instructional effectiveness and an empowering infrastructure.

The plan, four months in the making, is “99.9% solid,” and the final version should remain unchanged aside from minor verbiage, said Mutiu Fagbayi, president of Performance Fact, a company hired by the Yakima School District to help create a new six-year strategic plan, during his presentation to the board.

But he added that the implementation is most important. To stay on track, the district should set short-term goals at the start of each school year, quarter, month and week. These can guide financial decisions and smaller-scale plans to ensure the district is moving in the right direction, rather than stalling, he said.

Fagbayi added that plans evolve over time, but that changes to the direction or implementation of the plan should be done intentionally based on data or progress, “not because we took our eye off the goal.”

Superintendent Trevor Greene said he felt confident the new plan fully represents the diversity and needs of the Yakima community. He gave credit to community organization La Casa Hogar for support and feedback that helped bring perspective he said district leaders might not have otherwise considered, and community engagement they might not have received.

Greene said the organization encouraged the district to break down information into colloquial language in both English and Spanish. This way, he said, parents could easily comprehend academic concepts that can get bogged down by acronyms or complicated vocabulary. This made parents more likely to engage in the planning process and provide feedback, he said.

Communications director Kirsten Fitterer added La Casa Hogar also helped create an environment of trust between district leaders and Spanish-speaking parents.

“In the last couple of years, entities like school systems that might be perceived as government entities don’t have the trust factor that we used to,” she said. “We feel proud that we still have it, but it’s even more trustworthy if (calls for participation come) from someone like La Casa Hogar.”

The board is expected to finalize the plan during a Yakima school board meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 21 in the district office at 104 North 4th Avenue in Yakima.

This story has been updated to reflect the main district building address.

Reach Janelle Retka at jretka@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @janelleretka