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 CAB Starts Strategic Planning

February 4, 2009 - The Charles A. Beard School Board began its strategic planning for the school corporation with a nearly two-and-a-half hour special meeting on Jan. 26.

For now, board members seem to be in agreement about using a seven-step process: establishing their planning framework; coming up with mission and vision statements; conducting current assessment; setting goals; developing strategies to meet goals; developing action plans; and executing plans and evaluating progress.

The specific planning framework the board has agreed to use will look at eight different categories: student achievement; academic curriculum; personnel; community relations; budget and finance; facilities; technology; and extracurricular activities. While there was a small amount of discussion about the relative importance of some of these categories, the board did not attempt to prioritize them at last week’s meeting.

Mike Adamson, director of board services for the Indiana School Boards Association, acted as a facilitator for the meeting and did his best to keep board members on task. He told the board early on in the meeting that he thought it would be a mistake to rush headlong into establishing specific goals and strategies without first knowing “who they are and where they want to go.”

When developing their belief statements about the different categories, Adamson suggested board members try to figure out what they are not willing to compromise about as a board. He said these value and belief statements will help the board define the school corporation.

As an example, Adamson asked members to consider what they, as a board, believe about student achievement, the first category listed on their planning framework. “All children can learn,” board member Leah Kopp replied. Adamson asked other board members if they agreed with Kopp’s statement.

Superintendent Gary Storie asked board members what they thought about “All students can learn at high levels.”

Board President Kevin Knott said he agreed that all students can learn. However, he said struggled with Storie’s suggestion due to potential difficulty in quantifying what “at high levels” means.

Returning to Kopp’s suggestion, Board Vice President Steve Dalton said, “The fact that they can learn is axiomatic. ... It’s so patently obvious that they can learn. ... I think they can learn at high levels relevant to their potential.”

“What if we said they’re unique and can learn in different ways?” Kopp asked.

“Again,” said Dalton, “that’s obvious.”

Once again expressing his concern about how CAB would quantify what is meant by “high level,” Knott suggested leaving the vision statement for the “Student Achievement” category as “All students can learn.”

“I think they’re going to laugh,” Dalton said. “It seems absurd to me.”

“If you believe all students can learn at a high level, then that should be your belief statement,” Adamson said, “... but don’t just say it because it sounds good.”

Knott said he was not sure if all students could achieve at a high level. He said different people may have different ideas about what constitutes “at a high level.”

Storie said specific standards defining what would be considered a “at a high level” would be established once the board reaches the part in the process where they are setting goals and developing specific strategies.

Despite reservations from some board members, potential vision statements offered for the “Student Achievement” category included: “All students can learn at high levels relevant to their potential;” “Family, staff and community involvement maximize student achievement;” “Student achievement enhances opportunities for success;” and “Student achievement correlates to success in life.”

With respect to the second category, “Academic curriculum,” Storie said he thought CAB should have quantifiable evidence that its curriculum choices are effective. This prompted board member Tom Schaetzle to ask if the corporation now has curriculum practices not supported by evidence.

“There’s a tendency to do what we’ve always done,” Storie said, adding that there are some examples of practices being used that don’t work or aren’t supported by evidence.

Knott asked whether the board could get some feedback from administrators and staff about curriculum. “I think they would appreciate that,” Storie said. As a potential vision statement for “Academic Curriculum,” Schaetzle proposed: “Frequent assessments are critical to improvement of student performance and instructional progress.”

“It’s an interesting process,” Dalton remarked at one point during the meeting. “It’s going to go at a sloth-like pace. ... This could take six months to a year.” “It always does at this phase,” Adamson said. He said the process would go quicker, however, if the board met more than once a month.

Knott and Dalton both said they thought the board needed to meet at least twice a month, in addition to regular monthly meetings, to work on strategic planning. “This business is extremely important and time consuming, and is deserving of your undivided attention,” Adamson said at the end of the meeting. “... You may feel like you didn’t get very far, but you really did.”

While last week’s meeting was open to the public, only three area residents attended it. The low turnout may have been due, in part, to the fact that the meeting was not scheduled until the very end of the board’s regular monthly meeting on Jan. 20, too late for notice to be included in the Jan. 21 issue of The Banner.

The board has scheduled two more strategic planning meetings for the month of February: Monday, Feb. 9, and Mon., Feb. 23. Both meetings are open to the public and will be held at 6 p.m. in the board meeting room at CAB’s central office, 345 N. Adams St., Knightstown.

The school board’s next regular monthly meeting will be held Tuesday, Feb. 17. That meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and be held in the Knightstown High School media center, 8149 W. U.S. Hwy. 40.

 

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