"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

School Board Campaign: A Thoughtful Strategic Plan is Imperative for a Successful District

Well, I've been following the 4K for Evansville WI Face Book page and reading a lot of the comments there. There is still a dichotomy of opinion in this town surrounding 4K, but there has been a consistent theme throughout the eight years this district has been wrangling with this topic. Everything is dependent on funding. Funding is limited, like in every real world endeavor. When the needs and wants exceed the resources, there's this thing called prioritization to determine which of one's creditors gets paid first. When you are very lucky and have extra money, the same list tells you in what order you should purchase which goods and services to meet the district goals. The big problem is that the district has been working on developing a strategic plan for five or six years now. The latest iteration is called the Citizen's Advisory Committee (CAC). This additional committee was formed because our District Administrator didn't have buy-in on the former strategic planning process three or four years ago and therefore it was necessary for the district to spend another 11 grand to do a comprehensive community survey. The advantage is that there will be far more community input from a survey than from the 75-100 people who bothered to take time out of their busy schedules and attend the input forums in 2010.

The long anticipated surveys were sent last week. Sadly, it seems to the uninvolved perspective that the survey was designed with an eye to go to referendum, not as a way to help the district determine the community values and priorities in educating their children. Unless one equates a citizen's willingness to pay hundreds of dollars a year extra in property taxes (total if all the initiatives go to referendum) for the next four years with their support for the district. Prioritization will have to be measured in terms of how strongly people feel about a subject, I suppose. "Definitely Would vote for" could be construed as the highest priority and "Definitely would not vote for" the lowest priority. I marked "need more information" on all of them except paying for pay and benefits through referendum. Never pay for recurring costs with non-recurring income. I marked "Definitely Not" on that one. So, does that mean I don't respect our teachers and believe they should have competitive pay and benefits? No, it means I don't think this is a sustainable finance model that should be avoided at all costs. That is why I was so disappointed with the survey content, but they had to start somewhere.

Other surveys the district has shelled out dearly for include the facility use survey, safety audit and technology audit, all toll to the tune of about 50 grand. Now, I'm absolutely of the opinion that getting expert advice is useful and outsiders can be more neutral than your own in house experts. At the very least, if you're going to shell out a lot of cash for expertise, you have to listen to them carefully and at least try to implement the suggestions. I also believe that community surveys are useful only if you're planning to follow community input on the survey. Simply ignoring people's hard won input into a process because you didn't have buy-in to the process does not encourage people to provide meaningful input the next time you need it. Since there has been no attempt in four years to prioritize based on the data they did have from the first strategic planning process, the school board is reduced to a reactionary governing body subject to the political winds of the moment. This benefits nobody, and hurts our kids. When elected, the first thing I will recommend is that the board implement a strategic (5 year) plan. With this in place, there is a guide for what to spend and why and an insulation from those pesky political windstorms.


Anonymous said...

How in the world do they spend approximately 50 grand on surveys? I have never felt they gave two thoughts about what these surveys showed.

I was very disappointed in this most recent survey. The clear push for wanting to go to referendum is distributing.

I am not at all impressed with administration they seem to have no clear goals, they are jumping all over the place instead of sticking with any type of plan.

I will honestly say if I was impressed with administration, with the district as a whole I would not have issues with some of these wants. As I see it every last thing on that survey is a want not a need. Several of those items need to come out of the budget as they are regular expenses.

I am just not impressed.

Anonymous said...

I will add one more thing. I am adamantly against 4k. I have researched and studied 4k for a while now and have found no studies of long term benefits, not even past the elementary years.

It's a lot of money for things parents should be doing at home with their kids. It does not take a certified teacher.

I wish I could have gotten tax payers to pay for my daycare costs when our kids were younger.