District thinks strategically

Educator and consultant Jerome Colonna.

As Seaside schools embark on a plan to move endangered schools out of the tsunami zone, school district officials, business and community leaders and others launched the first step in the development of a multiyear strategic plan.

Under the direction of Colonna, principal of Colonna Strategic Planning Services, based in Bend, the district approved the $15,000 cost for the plan in December, to be paid out of existing areas of the budget, including the district’s professional training budget, Superintendent Sheila Roley said.

“The board members met as a group with Jerry Colonna and he took us through his process of developing the strategic plan for the district,” Seaside School District Superintendent Sheila Roley said at the Tuesday, March 20, meeting of the district’s board of directors. “He took us through the first phase of the process. Our first ask was to have teachers, principals and community members generate questions for members of the community.”

The district held open forums and focus groups districtwide.

“We were just listeners,” Roley said. “It was really wonderful. We had everywhere from two to 20 in the groups.”

One-hundred-eighty people responded overall, she said.

The March report is a summary of those sessions, she said, intended to present the core beliefs of the community and our school community — “what can they look forward to from our district,” Roley said. “Some themes emerged: People really value the things we do well.”

She said respondents offered “lots of compliments on the quality of our staff and our board, and in general the operations and personnel.”

The district looks at students as individuals, she added. “It’s not one-size-fits-all. People also recognize the importance of our extracurricular activities like athletics, arts, and other activities.”

Focus group participants showed concerns about raising graduation rates absenteeism, standardized testing and developing “real-world skills,” from balancing a checkbook to buying car insurance.

Improvements also sought stronger guidance programs, more focus on academics and safety and security improvements.

Main indicators of success as described by respondents included up-to-date technology, an understanding of how education is tied to future success and sharing schools.

“Interestingly, most of those comments are not about academics,” Roley said. “You know kids are successful if they love fifth-grade loving school and wanting to come back, or knowing how to advocate for themselves. … People see our role as being very holistic in the community and are not an organization that lives in isolation.”

The goal of the strategic plan is to take the district “to the next level of effectiveness,” she added.

Since approval by the school board, students, teachers and others have registered input in focus groups and online. “The focus group comments will help form district core values and beliefs,” Colonna wrote in his report. “The core values and beliefs will create a foundation for the plan’s mission, vision, goals and performance indicators.”

Mark Truax, a member of the planning committee, said the process is “going well.”

“It’s really interesting,” Truax said. “It’s kind of a slow pace, but it’s what needs to be done. It’s the kind of project that needs to be step by step and kept on task.”

Completion of the strategic plan is expected by November.

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