Editorial: Strategic plan good for district
photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration
The Lawrence school board’s approach to developing a five-year strategic plan is the right one. The keys to its success will be getting public involvement on the front end and holding the school district accountable for performance against goals as the plan is implemented.
The strategic planning process has begun and will be developed in earnest this spring. The district’s new superintendent, Anthony Lewis, said the process would be an inclusive community effort that would identify specific improvements needed and then measure the district’s progress on making those improvements.
Lewis has already held six “listen and learn” sessions at sites throughout the district. The school district also surveyed more than 1,000 students, teachers, classified staff, parents and community partners last fall. The survey asked respondents to identify district strengths, areas needing improvement, how the district could raise academic achievement and eliminate achievement gaps among students of different ethnic and income groups and to identify the district’s budget priorities.
Next month, the school board is expected to hire a consultant to facilitate development of the plan and its public involvement process. “One of the things we talked about is we already have a great deal of data,” Lewis said recently. “We had consultants who wanted to come in and identify needs, but we’ve already done that. We wanted to assure the public that the consultant will use the data we’ve already collected from them.”
The consultant will be expected to gather stakeholders to provide input and to engage the public on the plan. The goal is to present the plan to the school board for approval next summer so that the plan can be used to inform decisions affecting the 2019-20 school year.
Board member Shannon Kimball deserves credit for pushing for development of a strategic plan during her term as board president last year. She rightly noted the plan can could bring better focus to goal setting and lead to a vision for district improvement that could be communicated clearly with the community.
Lewis said public accountability would be critical to the plan’s success.
“Going back to the community will not be just a check-the-box exercise,” he said. “We need public input on this because we want the community to be involved in the implementation of the plan as well as holding us accountable in terms of: ‘I was involved in the plan, and you said we’d be doing X, Y and Z. It’s six months down the road, how are we doing with the plan?'”
That’s spot on. While the process used in developing the plan is important, ultimately, the impact of the plan will be determined by the district’s commitment to establishing challenging but realistic goals and then rigorously measuring progress toward those goals and sharing the results with the public. That’s the right path to districtwide improvement.