Representatives from Blue Springs and Grain Valley school districts attended the first Governor’s Conference on school improvement at the University of Missouri in Columbia last week.

Missouri school leaders from all over the state came together to rethink the state’s system of school managment.

“For Missouri to compete in today’s global economy, our students need to graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and careers,” Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said in an announcement of the conference. “To accomplish that goal we need a comprehensive approach that includes not just more resources, but also higher expectations, greater accountability and a committment to excellence at every level.”

In order for Missouri schools to achieve these goals, Nixon urged all school districts to implement the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, a model that provides the framework and an assessment tool for understanding organizational strengths and opportunities for improvement, according to the Baldrige website.

“With a proven record of improving performance and outcomes, the Baldrige program is an important tool to help students deliver real results for our students and our economy,” Nixon says.

Grain Valley Deputy Superintendent Brad Welle attended the conference and said the Baldrige program “doesn’t add to the plate (of other guidelines and expectations for schools) but rather is the plate.”

“When people think of the Baldrige model, they generally think of it being associated with corporations and business management systems,” continued Welle. “But it definitely applies to education systems as well and has a lot of promise for schools in Missouri.”

Welle explained the Baldrige education program helps districts improve their goals to align with what resources they are able to work with.

“The (Baldrige) program asks you reflective questions,” said Welle. “Like what are your values as a school district? Have you been clear of your mission and goals? It helps you make decisions in order to obtain your goals.” Currently the district is in the midst of refining their mission statement right now, says Welle.

He also continued how the Baldrige program will be beneficial with Grain Valley’s goals of accommodating district expansion. “It gets us excited because it will make us a stronger district as we grow.”

Leaders from MidwayUSA, Columbia-based business that recently received Baldrige Award attended the conference as well. They announced that MidwayUSA founder and CEO Larry Potterfield and his wife, Brenda, recently pledged $1 million to the first school district in Missouri to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. However, Welle says the award isn’t the motivation for having his district adopt the model, but rather the principles behind it.

“Having the Governor promote it, it’s one big way to bring attention to it.”

Welle is hoping the Grain Valley School Board will look into the Baldrige model for consideration in the near future.