Duluth Public Schools sets out a new three-year plan

A districtwide “roadmap” calls for more a rethink of class schedules, expanding the “Check & Connect” program, more alternatives to suspensions, a more diverse staff, and more

A classroom at Lester Park Elementary School.
Bob King / File / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — Duluth school officials adopted a districtwide plan for the next three school years.

Sitting beside glossy posters showing each of its eight pages, Duluth Public Schools board members on Tuesday voted 5-0 to approve a “strategic roadmap” that’s meant to be the district’s lodestar through the 2025-2026 school year and possibly beyond that. Not present were board members David Kirby and Kelly Durick-Eder.

“We are confident that our strategic plan will propel us to new heights of success in our district,” Board Chair Jill Lofald is quoted as saying in a news release district staff published shortly after the board meeting. “This is a pivotal moment for our district as we chart a path towards learning, excellence, equity, collaboration and belonging."

Last year, Check and Connect boasted a 75% reduction in absenteeism and a 62% reduction in suspensions among enrolled students

Among the plan’s 16 bullet points are calls for the district to:

  • Rethink its class schedules to give students more time with specialists and a wider variety of course options for them to consider a future career.
  • Infuse reading and literacy into more subject matters and rethink the district’s early literacy programs.
  • Expand the promising “Check & Connect” program.
  • Use alternatives to suspensions districtwide.
  • Offer further implicit bias training for staff.
  • Diversify district staff.
  • Expand a “Grow Your Own” program that helps interested students pursue careers at the district after they’ve graduated.
  • Consult more frequently with leaders at the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

District leaders plan to meet monthly to go over different pieces of the plan and check their progress.
“I want the district and community to hold me and the district accountable to deliver on what we say we’ll do,” Superintendent John Magas told the News Tribune.


The plan also outlines the “desired daily experiences” of students, parents and staffers, which were gleaned from a series of meetings and surveys over the past year. District administrators have been working on the plan since April 2022.

From students, for example, those hoped-for experiences include multiple course options, feeling connected to their classmates, staff who keep them safe and support them, time to eat lunch and socialize, and more.

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From parents: Their children feeling welcomed, the district keeping them informed, and student access to mental health resources.

And from staff: Class sizes and caseloads that help them meet students’ needs, dedicated and adequate time for preparation and working with colleagues, plus quality and meaningful training opportunities.

Those desired daily experiences are partly what sets the plan apart from others, according to Magas.

“It’s really focusing first on listening to people about what they want, and deciding as a district on how we’re going to deliver it, as opposed to deciding what we’re going to deliver and pushing it through the system,” he said Tuesday. “A lot of districts, they get started on a plan and they have maybe a plan that's roughly put together, not totally complete, that they're trying to follow, or they have a plan that looks good on paper and it just becomes kind of a dusty binder. This is something that we plan to make as the core of our work each and every day.”

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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