The Seaside School District is looking to the future with a new campus in the Southeast Hills. The relocation and building process could be accompanied by a general statement of mission and goals, as members of the district’s board of directors are considering embarking on a nine-month strategic vision process with the help of Jerome Colonna of Colonna Strategic Planning Services, based in Bend.
“This conversation today isn’t about the building,” Superintendent Sheila Roley said Tuesday afternoon in a special meeting with school board members and Colonna. “It’s about the kids and the learning and how we come together as a cohesive K-12 school, and making sure with our awesome staff we maximize the best outcomes for our kids.”
Colonna, who brings more than 45 years experience in Oregon education, is the former superintendent of Beaverton and Redmond schools. He served on the board of the Oregon Department of Education until last year.
“This is your first chance to talk about to see this district moving to the next level of effectiveness,” Colonna said. “You’re a very good district, but maybe you can be better. What are some of the things you can strive for? In knowing what to strive for, I can give you the tools to get there.”
Colonna shared his proposal for strategic planning, districtwide goals and benchmarks for future leaders.
With a new campus ahead after the approval of a $99.7 million bond last November, the time is “now” for a strategic planning process, members felt, as building and relocation will likely dominate discussions in years to come.
He asked board members to discuss priorities from three to five years off.
Board members sought improvement in graduation rates, a reduction in absenteeism, among other measurable goals.
“One of my priorities for the future is that when we transition to our new campus, we will be such a cohesive, collaborative class,” Roley said.
Roley sought to define that culture and the expectations of students and how they learn “so that we are really a K-12 team instead of a K-5 team.”
Board member Michelle Wunderlich pointed to the difficulties of comparing Seaside, a resort town with a transient population, to other Oregon communities.
In Seaside, not all kids have the opportunities for higher education.
“We live in a place where kids start working very early,” Wunderlich said. “We have to find ways to partner with other community businesses to help them prepare with those jobs, and not necessarily say, ‘you need to do this for college.’”
Patrick Nofield sought a community liaison to make sure children are properly fed and clothed. “It affects everything we are talking about here,” he said.
About one in four organizations that start this process are unsuccessful, Colonna said. More time may be spent on the planning than the implementation, and future leaders may be reluctant to adopt a plan put forth by previous administrators.
“The plan needs to be modified and changed every year,” Colonna said. “If you do that, you’ll never need to change this plan again.”
That plan is a living document that can be used by future administrators and staff.
Metrics would be required on a three- or four-month basis, to determine success at meeting clear and understandable goals. “Of the plans that I see successful, that’s a really big piece,” Colonna said.
Faculty and staff must feel included, he added. Focus groups and gathering information on the website are both components of the process. Principals and teachers should develop goals that align with the districts.
“They don’t need to be the same, but they should be similar,” Colonna said.
Elements of the plan include a strategic planning team meeting once a month of “maybe 12-15 individuals,” he said.
A board member, principals, union presidents, student and business community could be among the team, as well as representatives of the construction project.
The team would take on one element at a time before bringing those proposals to the board.
The team would determine focus groups, who to meet with, when and where, along with issues to discuss.
This is a good time to embark on this process, board member Mark Truax said.
“There’s going to be enough distractions in the move and opening,” Truax said. “That’s not going to be real smooth. At least everybody should be on the same page in one way shape or form. We’ll have part of the issue taken care of, something we don’t have to worry about. As far as the timeline, we’re at it.”
Colonna said the strategic plan could be integrated with the campus relocation process to form a successful three-to-five-year process.
“It’s nice to get the big picture,” board member Lori Lum said. “There’s no better time than now to discover what is our vision, what is our purpose.”
Board member Brian Taylor agreed the timing was right. “The time to do that is right now, so when we go to move up the hill, everybody is moving in the same direction.”
Funds for the project would come from budget consultant funds and grants, Roley said.
If adopted at the Thursday, Dec. 14, district board meeting, Colonna would bring focus groups to the district and invite community input.
“I think the timing is perfect,” Roley said.