Sustaining the Vision in a Personalized, Competency-Based District


Fifty miles north of Portland, Maine, superintendent of RSU2 Bill Zima is working with his admin team during their weekly meeting.

“Remember our purpose is to cultivate hope in all learners,” Bill says. “All of our efforts are towards that vision, and if they are not, then we are not in alignment.”

Citing the work of author Shane Lopez in his 2013 book, Making Hope Happen, RSU2 has brought hope to the forefront of their district vision. They have defined hope as the belief that the future will be better than the present, and that we have the power to make it so. Their vision also recognizes that there are many paths to the future and none of those paths are free of obstacles.

They also determined the core competencies of hope:

  • goals
  • agency
  • pathways

They are hard at work developing strategies in their schools and their learning community to cultivate hope in all learners.  According to Zima, “when we reach our goals by overcoming the obstacles on our chosen pathways, our perceived ability to shape our lives, our agency, increases. Hope is a strategy and it can be measured.”

Having a district vision is one thing, but how it is operationalized is what really leads to success. With federal and state mandates, local context and five separate communities making up the school district, keeping the arrows aligned in RSU2 is a constant focus for the district. The team is transparent in their continuous improvement efforts around alignment: workshop models for literacy and mathematics instruction; applied learning; a guaranteed and viable curriculum with learning progressions anchored by learning targets; scoring guides and a taxonomy; learner-centered practices; and a relentless commitment to meeting the needs of each learner are all drivers of hope in the district.

While the challenges are many, the rewards abound when learners and teachers channel passions, interests and talents into the work.