PEWAUKEE, Wisc., Jan. 9, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The tiny school district in this rural town has captured the attention of America by winning the coveted and prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which honors performance excellence in education, healthcare and business organizations.
The Pewaukee School District (PSD), an innovative public school system, was one of only three organizations nationwide to receive the 2013 award. Winning the nation's highest Presidential honor for performance excellence and visionary leadership is no small feat. The Pewaukee school system, which totals 2,791 students has only one high school, one middle school and two elementary schools.
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said the PSD and other winners were cited for being a leader in "innovative practices, dynamic management, sound financial performance, outstanding employee and customer satisfaction, and a solid commitment to excellence and proven results."
Secretary Pritzker added that the Baldrige program "has had a tangible impact on the success of thousands of organizations worldwide and our nation's economy." She said the 2013 winners will undoubtedly continue that legacy and serve as role models for their peers in the health care and education sectors.
Dr. JoAnn Sternke, Superintendent of Schools since 2001, said the award resulted from a collective effort of the district's 314 staff members, including everyone from teachers and administrators to custodians and cafeteria cooks. They made the growth and well-being of the students "the primary focus of every departments and school's effort to continually improve," said Sternke.
The Baldrige program was pivotal in helping the district reach many accomplishments. Sternke said the PSD initially began using Baldrige practices in 2007, including eleven "core values" and a framework for planning and assessments.
Goals were set across every department and designed to produce results-driven performance from every member of staff and school. Administrators established better collaboration, designated staff leaders in improvement plans and instituted data-driven decision-making in every area from school transition programs to curriculum revisions. Student needs were considered both academically and holistically to support their growth.
"Leveraging the Baldrige criteria helped us look at improving all the processes in our organization and streamline spending," said Sternke. Because it's a small school district with a small central office, Sternke said they "had to be very good and strategic about setting achievement goals…We're a small organization that has become very focused on using the Baldrige criteria to help us improve. We're the little engine that could."
PSD now has one of the highest graduation rates in the state, not to mention one of the toughest graduation requirements. The percentage of PSD students attending a two or four-year college increased from 78.8 percent in 2006-2007 to 91.9 percent in 2011-2012. The county rate is 84 percent and the state rate is 74.1 percent. PSD students' 23.4 aggregate score on the ACT college readiness assessment test outperforms both the state (22) and national (20.9) averages. Economically disadvantaged students attending PSD schools performed better on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concept Examinations than similar students in the county, state and nearby high-performing schools.
"We're one of the most innovative school districts in personalized learning and leveraging technology to improve student learning, "said Sternke. "We are surrounded by very high achieving schools; we needed to keep up and now we're looked at as a leader in how we deliver our service to kids." She insists that these results were "without a doubt" the product of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence.
Established by Congress in 1987, the Baldrige Award is managed by the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP) of the U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in cooperation with the private sector.
Baldrige encourages organizations to learn from the best practices among the three engines that power the economic strength of America's economy - business, education, and healthcare. Access to high-quality and affordable health care is vital to U.S. competitiveness and individual well-being. Baldrige helps healthcare systems improve clinical outcomes and reduce costs. Education propels economic growth. Baldrige helps school districts to create a capable workforce. Productivity is the path to bottom-line business success. Baldrige helps businesses improve revenue. With this improvement scenario repeating itself around the country, Baldrige effectively changes the competitiveness and prosperity of our nation, one organization, one community, and one state at a time.
Moreover, the program raises awareness about the importance of performance excellence in driving the U.S. and global economy; provides organizational assessment tools and criteria; and educates leaders in businesses, schools, health care organizations, and government and nonprofit organizations about the practices of national role models.
"For a quarter century, Baldrige has provided organizations with the framework to achieve world class performance excellence," said Robert Fangmeyer, Director of the Baldrige Program. "Our program helps educators, businesses and healthcare systems examine their practices, benchmark against the best organizations and implement the necessary changes to become global leaders in performance excellence. The Baldrige framework is a set of evolving concepts that address the challenges of today and tomorrow."
(To arrange broadcast or print interviews with Dr. JoAnn Sternke and Robert Fangmeyer please contact Sean Martin, firstname.lastname@example.org 561-703-5394 or Michael K. Frisby, email@example.com 202-828-1242.)
Michael K. Frisby
SOURCE Baldrige Foundation