BY Jason Emerson
Monday may have been a stormy winter day that cancelled school, but that did not stop more than two dozen residents from attending the Cazenovia school district’s strategic plan update rollout meeting and learning how community members can — and are actively invited to — participate in the planning process.
It was announced last November that the district would update its strategic plan as a way to chart a course for the district for the next five years, with focus on the areas of curriculum and instruction, financial management, facilities, and community relations. To that end, the district, supported by the board of education, hired consulting firm PLC Associates, Inc., of Pittsford, N.Y., to assist with the strategic planning.
The key to creating a strategic plan that will be useful, used and embraced by everyone in the community is to have a collaborative creation process, which is how this will be done, said Janice Lutterbein a facilitator with PLC Associates, who introduced the planning process during a public meeting on Feb. 13. There will be a core group of stakeholders who will lead discussions, monitor work and report out — students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, community members — and individual task forces assigned to specific topics that will be data-driven to focus on specific areas through surveys, interviews, public forums and other types of community interaction. The core team will be highly involved throughout the entire process. Task force members will provide expertise in specific areas of continuous improvement.
“If we don’t have a plan, goals to accomplish that are measurable, how will we know where we’re going as a cohesive unit?” said BOE member Lisa Lounsbury, as she introduced the meeting. “We have a great district, but we can do better.” The process will incorporate the experience and knowledge of people in the community to help the district move forward and improve, she said.
“We want you to be involved; we want you to help get more people involved,” said board member Dave Mehlbaum to the attendees. “We can talk all day about this, but it doesn’t matter if we don’t hear from our community members [on their concerns and ideas].”
PLC facilitators Lutterbein and Tammy Farell offered meeting attendees an overview of how the planning process will work.
There need to be clear strategic intents of what is to be done, including making five-year targets across a number of areas. There will also need to be strategies/action plans decided on to include the activities/projects which are implemented.
The members of the core team and the task forces need to be identified. They will be comprised of all district stakeholders: students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators and community members.
The core team will consist of 15 to 40 members, and will meet six to eight times between March and August. The core team, during these strategy sessions, will conduct analyses, draft strategic intents; determine vision, mission, beliefs and parameters; respond to work of task forces; and prepare strategic plan for presentation.
The individual task forces will have 8 to 15 members each and will meet six to eight times between April and August. During these sessions, the task forces will analyze data, refine/build strategic intents, build strategies and action plans, and report out to the core team as requested.
Being part of these groups will be “intense,” Lutterbein said, with a lot of reading and learning to be done. “It will be good, hard work – it has to be to make a good strategic plan,” she said.
Lutterbein also said that people who want to participate but who may not be able to commit to attending six to eight meetings as part of the process should still come forward, as will be many roles people can play in the process.
After six months or so of meetings and collaborative work, the core group will present the proposed new strategic plan to the board of education for approval.
After the meeting, a group of local parents sitting together said they were impressed by the presentation and hopeful that planning process will work as intended and will receive a large amount of community interest and input.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Pamela Prior, a mother of two Cazenovia students. “I hope there is good implementation and follow-through — life tends to get in the way of things sometimes and you can lose the momentum.”
Parent Kristen Bosch said she found it a “great start” to the process and is glad there is an emphasis on “many voices” being heard.
Krista Brown, parent of two students, agreed, but said she is concerned that some voices in the community may not be heard. “I just want to make sure marginalized people will speak up and become part of the process.”
School board President Jan Woodworth and member Kathy Hahn said after the presentation ended they were impressed by the turnout and are excited to receive community member ideas and input as the planning process moves forward.
“We know our opinions; we need to hear what everyone else has to say,” Woodworth said.
Superintendent Matt Reilly said he was pleased with community turnout at the presentation and the thoughtful questions residents raised. “This foreshadows a process and a product that will be valuable to the district for years to come,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a great journey, and I look forward to taking it with [everyone],” he said.
Anyone with questions about the strategic planning process may contact Assistant Superintendent Terry Ward, at 655-5379 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the strategic plan update process, as well as meeting dates, participation forms and the Feb. 13 Powerpoint presentation, visit the district website at cazenoviacsd.com/strategic-plan-2017.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.