Board of Education Approves Strategic Plan Proposal
At its August 23 meeting, the Board of Education heard a presentation from Richard Lemons of Partners For Educational Leadership concerning a strategic plan proposal.
Partners for Educational Leadership have aided 63 of the state’s 169 school districts with things such as strategic plans. Lemons told the board that he “works with a collection of amazing people” and that the Hartford nonprofit has been in existence for 25 years.
The organization has worked with Newtown in the past. The organization’s core practice is “partnering with districts and other organizations to strengthen their leadership, systems, and improvement strategies in service of realizing more equitable outcomes for students.”
They do this through “coaching, consulting, and capacity building.”
“That expertise and experience says a lot about what we have to offer,” said Lemons. With a strategic plan, Lemons said it was important to make sure the plan has a “real impact on real children in real classrooms — not ideas in the clouds.”
The school board later voted to approve the strategic plan at its September 6 meeting.
Tailored To District
All services from Partners For Educational Leadership will be tailored to the district, including the strategic plan. According to Lemons, when a district approaches a strategic plan on its own, a number of flaws commonly present themselves in those plans.
“Often a strategic plan is used in ways that render it ineffective,” said Lemons.
Among those flaws are focusing on the completion of a template; creating a list of activities that is exhaustive in scope and often disjointed; creating the plan using only a small number of leaders; focusing around the “margins of the classroom” instead of directly on class work; treating the plan as a “complete work” rather than a living document to be continually modified; and underestimating the necessary forms of capacity to pull off the plan.
“Atypical approaches are best,” said Lemons. “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that a plan is the best thinking at that point in time. The plan should be constantly in a state of rethinking and revising.”
Lemons also noted that making sure a larger number of stakeholders can contribute and feel ownership over a plan can be “make or break” to its success.
Partners For Educational Leadership will assist the district in making a plan that recognizes the uncertainty of change and improvement; defines a small number of high-leverage improvement priorities; is owned, understood and used by stakeholders across the district; is future-oriented and focused on how the organization should work (not just how it does); articulates strategies that directly target the quality of the learning experience for children; and focuses as much on systems of execution and continuous improvement as the plan itself.
“A strategic plan is not just a document,” said Lemons. “To be effective, it has to be about shifting practice to new, better things the district is doing. This isn’t about a plan that will sit on a shelf. This is about figuring out how to keep people connected to the plan so it is guiding their work.”
Process Going Forward
The proposed strategic planning process will begin with a needs assessment, move into “grounding artifacts” such as the vision, mission, and integration of the district’s “Portrait of a Graduate” plan; and then outlining the improvement framework with broad goal areas, broad strategic actions, and key measures.
The school board will be the key and leading stakeholder, and will commission a task force, create parameters, and will receive recommendations to consider for adoption.
A task force will be formed to work within the parameters of the board’s charge, gather insight and perspectives from the community; and craft draft components of the plan.
Lastly, broader stakeholder groups such as the staff, administration, parents, and even students will be tapped to provide insight, input, and perspectives, as well as provide a “feedback loop” on initial thinking and planning by the task force.
The Board of Education, with the assistance of the superintendent, will make final decisions, and at the end will be able to accept, revise, or send a potential plan back for more work.
Following the September 6 approval of the strategic plan proposal, Superintendent of Schools Chris Melillo said district administrators, teachers, and community members will be included in the process of creating the plan. When aiming for goals for what the district wants for and from its graduates, Melillo said it is better to have a roadmap.
“You need a plan to make that happen,” said Melillo.