How can Whitehall students and teachers best meet their educational goals?

It's a question Whitehall City Schools administrators are seeking to answer as part of the district's new five-year continuous-improvement plan, expected to be nearly complete by April.

The plan, yet to be formally named, will succeed the district's expiring five-year continuous-improvement plan, called "Achieve 2020," which has guided the last half-decade, said Chris Hardy, director of accountability and instruction for Whitehall schools.

The new continuous-improvement plan seeks to clearly identify "pillars" that will define "the portrait of a student," Hardy said.

Several of the pillars already have been identified, including collaboration, communication and critical thinking, Hardy said, adding these qualities are considered critical to a student's progress to graduation.

Likewise, the plan will identify "the portrait of a teacher," Hardy said, selecting pillars for the district's educators, as well.

District administrators began working on the new continuous-improvement plan last spring.

Focus groups composed of administrators, teachers, parents and students have met and offered input toward the early incarnations of the plan, Hardy said.

In turn, administrators have shared the work in progress with those helping to shape it.

"We will keep meeting with our focus groups and do a lot of writing," Hardy said, with the goal of having a continuous-improvement plan 95% complete by April, when Superintendent Brian Hamler is expected to deliver his annual State of the Schools address.

In addition to creating a series of pillars for the portrait of a student and a teacher, the plan will update the district's professional-development plan and technology plan, meant to support the pillars contained in the plan, said Maria Boyarko, coordinator of student services for Whitehall schools.

"The (new) plan will align all our goals so we know we are all moving in the same direction toward (fulfilling the plan's goals)," Boyarko said.