About our District
Our Mission: Fort Smith Public Schools, a premier district where innovation creates excellence, is dedicated to providing an equitable, challenging educational experience by engaging families and community partners as we prepare students to embrace their roles in our culturally diverse community and rapidly changing world.
Four areas of impact drive everything we do - collaboration, data-driven processes, relationships, and a career focus. You will see evidence of ongoing work that focuses on a collaborative approach to education. Education teams are approaching this collaboration with an emphasis on proven processes that use data to support and enhance instruction. We recognize that productive relationships are essential among our school staff, students, parents and the larger school community. All of this culminates in a career focus that aims to ensure opportunities for each student if they choose to enter the workforce directly after high school, or if they decide to pursue post-secondary education or training. We are building a culture of excellence in our district that demands high expectations in all aspects of our work, in all of our buildings, and for every child who attends our schools, as well as for every adult who supports these children.
The four areas of impact have associated programs. Professional Learning Communities focus our attention on Collaboration, Capturing Kids' Hearts on Relationships, High Reliability Schools on Process, and our PEAK Center of Innovation highlights our attention on Career Focus. Together, these will lead to our ultimate goal of ensuring the success of all of our students. Our district has chosen "Capturing Kids' Hearts" training to equip our staff members with the tools and strategies to address the social emotional needs of our students and empower the entire community of learners to collaboratively establish standards for how to treat each other and encourage appropriate behaviors for learning and working together. The focus of the Professional Learning Communities initiative as it relates to student success is to ensure high levels of learning for all students by ensuring that all students are equipped to master content at their grade level and beyond. The High Reliability Schools Framework further ensures conditions for success in our schools through a strategic planning framework focused on ensuring a safe and collaborative school culture, effective teaching in every classroom and a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students. Through our Career Focused Education, the Fort Smith Public Schools system strives to ensure that every student leaves our district equipped with a viable plan and relevant skill set to earn a family-sustaining income in the career field of their choosing.
The Professional Learning Community process supports teachers and students with a shared purpose of becoming “crystal clear” about what each student needs to master in each grade level to be successful in the future. Teachers collaborate to improve instruction and find ways to provide extra time and support for students so they can ALL reach higher levels of learning. The shared culture of collaboration, high expectations and celebration creates a positive energy that is contagious and can be felt the minute you walk into a building. Lori Griffin, Director of Elementary Education
Professional Learning Communities
A Professional Learning Community isn’t really a “thing” a school becomes. It is a process and culture the education team internalizes and practices. Fort Smith Public Schools employed the PLC mindset a number of years ago. But, it wasn’t until the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the process for the state that district schools had the opportunity to dig in and wholly immerse themselves into the work of a PLC. Ballman and Spradling were the first schools selected by the state to participate in PLCs at Work, followed by Darby Middle School, Northside High School and Howard Elementary School. Ballman, Spradling and Northside have been recognized as Model PLC schools and the district is investing in PLC coaching for all district schools as a part of the Student Success goals. District work includes facilitating the development of the shared essential standards and shared high-quality assessments. It is paced for the whole district in a way that ensures student who move to another school will receive the same essential instruction, support and/or extensions/enrichment at the same time during the year. Like the Vision 2023 goals, PLC is focused on providing equitable access to resources. Equity defined in this sense means the Fort Smith Public Schools will act with urgency to give students what they need when they need it. This includes a “guaranteed and viable curriculum.” Janel Keating Hambly, author of “From the Boardroom to the Classroom,” told the FSPS Board of Education in a recent study session that, “PLCs in practice ensure improved Tier 1 instruction – the first and best instruction, improved adult professional practice, and more good teaching in more classrooms more of the time.”
The High Reliability Schools model ensures an equitable approach for all students in the Fort Smith Public School District. By creating systems to improve safety, Tier I instruction, and curriculum, FSPS students will have many opportunities to reach their greatest potential. Dr. Tony Jones, Director of Secondary Education
High Reliability Schools
The High Reliability Schools (HRS) focus area connects the work of Professional Learning Communities, Capturing Kids Hearts and the district’s Career Focus as it provides a framework for using data to make decisions about instructional practice. District and school teams studied the High Reliability Schools model during the 2021-2022 school year to build a shared understanding of how HRS strengthens education systems and outcomes. Schools and the district will seek HRS Level 1 designation during 2022-2023.
• Build a safe, supportive, and collaborative culture.
• Ensure effective teaching in every classroom.
• Design a guaranteed and viable curriculum.
• Achieve standards-referenced reporting.
• Implement a competency-based education system.
Career Focused Education
Career Education begins a lot earlier than it used to. Stephanie Freeman, FSPS Career Development Facilitator, noted that the district used to rely on a one semester class that students took in 8th Grade to do work that now begins in Kindergarten. Kindergarten through fifth grade students participate in a variety of career activities, like school-wide and grade-specific career fairs. These introduce them to career exploration. Students in Grades 6 and 7 explore a variety of career fields and jobs within those fields. For sixth graders the content in a nine-week Career Connections (CC) course builds toward the content introduced in the semester-long CC in seventh grade. Eighth-grade students complete a year-long Career Connections course that focuses the Planning phase of career development for eighth and ninth graders. Students in Grades 10-12 are enrolled in programs of study that prepare them for future careers. The District is expanding the career education program to ensure stronger foundations for students as they move toward high school and career. Educators are using tools like Naviance, Edge-Factor and You Science to identify natural aptitudes, personal interests and set career goals to ensure that they have a skill and plan by the time each one graduates.
Capturing Kids' Hearts
You may hear FSPS students and their teachers talking about the “social contracts” they are developing in their classrooms as a result of the Capturing Kids Hearts pilot. Basically, these contracts are the first steps in identifying and formalizing ways that students and their teachers demonstrate their respect for each other. Seven schools are piloting Capturing Kids' Hearts processes aimed at “One Mission … To Bring Out the Best in People.” Barling, Bonneville, Euper Lane, Orr, Ramsey, Trusty and Woods are in Year 1 of the CKH implementation. These schools have set the stage for 2021-2022; district-wide implementation is planned for 2022-2023.
Dr. Terry Morawski
Dr. Tiffany Bone
Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum and Instruction
Director, Elementary Education
Dr. Tony Jones
Director, Secondary Education
Our seven Vision 2023 Strategies continue to guide our efforts on behalf of students.
Vision 2023 Strategic Plan