Navigator Blog

A District’s Vision Driven by Diverse Local Voices

February 26, 2019

By Adriana Martinez

Nestled in the outskirts of Chicago, Indian Prairie School District 204 (IPSD) includes the towns of Aurora, Naperville, Bolingbrook, and Plainfield. With more than a hundred languages spoken by its students, IPSD is a quintessential majority-minority district.  

To meet the needs of IPSD’s 28,000 students and their families, inclusion matters. Dr. Karen Sullivan, superintendent, celebrates the diversity of her district and its history of welcoming different voices when it comes to education. In her words, “Being inclusive makes us stronger.”  

Given its diverse and inclusive culture, IPSD leadership team convened community members to create a Portrait of a Graduate, a locally developed vision for IPSD’s students—from their youngest learners to their high school graduates. Before starting their portrait process, district staff had discussed how to infuse 21st century competencies into academics. Nevertheless, Dr. Sullivan recollected, “We really had not had that conversation with our community.”  

In the spirit of inclusive community engagement, IPSD assembled a Portrait Design Team, 39 members who represented their broader community. The group included stakeholders from various sectors—from parent advisories and board members to their local chamber of commerce, among others. They met several times to explore changing landscapes, how these changes impact young people, and the competencies IPSD students need to thrive, now and in the future. These meetings prompted invigorating conversations across different perspectives. “Our folks were mesmerized […] and really soaked it up,” said Dr. Sullivan.  

Conversations validated the direction set forward by IPSD. The Portrait Design Team meetings energized the community, particularly business leaders who are eager to see schools focus on the skills and mindsets they need in prospective employees. IPSD didn’t stop with these meetings. They administered a survey that collected nearly 1,000 responses and actively promoted their Portrait throughout the community. To date, this effort has been featured in their local newspaper, the Naperville Sun, a subsidiary of the Chicago Tribune. You can read these stories here and here.

For Dr. Sullivan, their new Portrait elevates the important work of teachers who are creating learning opportunities to help their students build skills they need to thrive in a complex, everchanging world. Their new Portrait aligns and reinforces district priorities such as the #FutureReady204 campaign, its focus on social-emotional learning (SEL), and elevating student voice through efforts such as Surge Talks.  

More importantly, their Portrait invites community members to engage in conversations about the transformational work IPSD is leading with students. To learn more about IPSD’s Portrait, check out their video

Want to learn more about how to engage your community to create a Portrait of Graduate? Visit for resources to help you get started!

By Adriana Martinez,
Battelle for Kids