Headed into the winter break, district leaders say they are looking forward to time to rest and recharge before starting the new year energized and focused on new goals.
From increasing the focus on incorporating students’ voices into district decisions to expanding extracurricular offerings, superintendents have high hopes for 2024.
Several said they plan to take time over the holidays—a rare opportunity for (mostly) uninterrupted downtime—to connect with family and friends and to reflect on the biggest wins of 2023.
Here’s what five superintendents said their plans are for the holiday break and goals for the next year. Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Adam Swinyard, Spokane, Wash.
Winter break is a great opportunity to spend time with family and reflect on the successes of the past year, knowing that when we come back in January, we’re going to start ramping up again and planning for the next school year.
[In 2024,] we want every kid, every day, to have something positive to do outside of the school day. We’re giving our students every opportunity to try at least one extracurricular activity that can pull them in and lead to a deeper sense of belonging and community.
Mike Perry, Arlee, Mont.
Holidays for me are all about family time. I have a very crazy family tree, so the Christmas break is one time I can go visit all three sets of my parents and also fit in a visit to my in-laws. We spend lots of time on the road but the time with family is absolutely vital to my mental refresh as we are part way through the year.
My goal for 2024, on a personal level, includes a priority on my physical health, which I started at the beginning of this school year. From the professional side, I’m looking at trying to better communicate with our patrons using data that can be easily understood.
Bobby Ott, Temple, Texas
Our goal for Temple ISD this year has been to focus on the experiences that we provide our students and staff. Our schools are places where our students feel not only like they belong, but where they can also thrive and excel. This can only happen through meaningful relationships cultivated by committed staff who seek to really know and understand the students we serve.
I am so proud of our staff who work tirelessly to create experiences for our students that go far beyond learning standards and subject knowledge. I see evidence of these relationships in action every day as I walk through our building and see our students learning and excelling in ways that exceed their own expectations.
I will spend the winter break connecting with family and friends. I am not much for downtime, so we have several activities planned throughout the break that will allow my family to just enjoy the act of being together. I will also spend some time in the kitchen as this is one of my favorite pastimes, catch up on some podcasts, finish a few home renovation projects, get in a few workouts, and finish binging some movies in time to welcome in 2024.
PJ Caposey, Stillman Valley, Ill.
Winter break consists of an absolutely glorious gift: Time for uninterrupted work. For me, I always feel the change of the year is commensurate with my change of focus from executing in the current year to planning for the future year. I spend much time in thought and reflection and preparing to chart a new course.
My top goal for 2024 is to commit fully to being disciplined—this includes discipline in health and diet, but also extends to discipline to say no to things at work that distract us from our primary purpose. For me, I hope to have the discipline to commit fully and deeply to the work I believe will help us best serve all students and ensure our district is one that our community and kids are proud of.
Wendy Birhanzel, Colorado Springs, Colo.
I love the job I do as superintendent of Harrison School District 2 in Colorado. Working with students, families, staff, and our community is an honor. This work is hard but so important.
I spent time with my family in Mexico over Thanksgiving break since I will be cuddling and caring for my dog this holiday. I rescue pit bulls and, unfortunately, one of my puppies tore his ACL, so he gets a new knee for Christmas.
My goal for 2024 is to continue to elevate students’ voices in all we do to create opportunities and space for our diverse student body and community.