Lake Orion school board discusses new strategic plan ahead of anticipated vote

By Megan Kelley

Review Writer

The Lake Orion Board of Education met for their regularly scheduled meeting on April 13 where one of the more anticipated topics of discussion was the unveiling of the district’s strategic plan.

Over the past several months, LOCS has been participating in the strategic planning process through the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB).

Joining the board yet again to present on the final stages of the process were Debbie Stair and Greg Janicki from MASB.

The plan, though drafted and discussed, is expected to be formally voted on by the board at a future meeting.

Key highlights in the drafted plan are:

Mission: Empowering the Dragon community to achieve excellence

Vision: Empowered Dragons experience joy and success

Strategic focus areas: Personnel/Leadership, Learning Environment/Culture, Operations, Academics/Programs and Communications/Community Engagement.

Additionally, each strategic focus area has a goal statement and a list of first-year objectives.

Personnel/Leadership

Goal statement: Lake Orion Community Schools will attract, retain and value exceptional staff

First-year objectives:

• Expand community recruitment opportunities

• Successfully negotiate expiring bargaining agreements with responsibility

• Establish comprehensive district-wide staff recognition

Learning Environments/Culture

Goal statement: Lake Orion Community Schools will provide a learning environment where all students and staff feel supported, honored and respected.

First-year objectives:

• All schools implement Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

• Commitment to review current Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) framework, structures and leadership.

• Support staff mental health needs

Operations

Goal statement: Lake Orion Community Schools will maintain and enhance operations and facilities

First-year objectives:

• Plan for future non-homestead operating millage

• Plan for future sinking fund

• Identify and seek alternative revenue sources

• Manage Bond projects schedule

Academics/Programs

Goal statement: Lake Orion Community Schools will increase opportunities and flexibility for all Dragons.

First-year objectives:

• Increase the number of enrichment opportunities for elementary and middle schools

• Increase the number of flexible scheduling options for high school students

• Increase the number of community partnerships and expand various college and career advisor groups

Communications/Community Engagement

Goal statement: Lake Orion Community Schools will enhance district communications and increase community engagement in schools.

First-year objectives:

• Expand opportunities and participation in adult enrichment programs

• Expand community business partnerships

Despite the numerous input sessions, a stakeholder retreat and an implementation meeting all of which included dozens of people both within the district and in the Lake Orion community, the question was raised of if the strategic plan presented was “rigorous” enough.

“Is it a high enough standard?” Board Vice President Birgit McQuiston asked her fellow board members.

Several board members answered the posed question by stating that they felt the intent was to keep the standards broad.

“I think it was purposeful to leave them (standards) broader so that — the word that comes to mind is ‘aspirational’; that if you’re going to increase opportunities and flexibility for all Dragons, the sky is the limit,” said Board Treasurer Jake Singer. “It seemed like it was more of a deliberate attempt to not be so specific because it allows for limitless chances to grow.”

Board members Scott Taylor and Steve Drakos agreed that they were happy with the plan presented and the level of standards that come along with it.

LOCS Superintendent Ben Kirby spoke to inform the board that he believed once the board approved the strategic plan, the subsequent work plan that the district would then put together using the approved strategic plan is what would show the “rigor” and “high expectations”.

“I think the actual meat in the work plan. When we put that together and show that, will demonstrate the, as Birgit put it, the rigor in the work,” said Kirby. “I think it’s really important to understand, these are the goals for our strategic plan but there’s a lot of different work that will be going on and the high expectations for academic achievement and scholarship will continue to drive forward even though it might not be mentioned specifically in a respective goal area.”

McQuiston maintained her position in posing the question, stating that her intention was to ensure that the board is positive they are happy with the final product.

“It is our responsibility that when we go through this, this is a big deal for us to approve this, we’ve waited a long time to redo this and I’m just taking this extremely seriously and I want to make sure that we’re good with it because a lot rides on this for us in the evaluation process and that goes to the goal statement, “McQuiston said. “I just wanted to kind of open that door to have a discussion because I think we owe it to ourselves and the district to do that. And I’m perfectly fine if we land on it that this is awesome and we’re good with it. I just want to have that discussion because we haven’t had that opportunity, the seven of us together.”

Board member Susan Flaherty spoke to share her concerns about the “rigor” of the plan, using the Personnel/Leadership strategic focus area as an example.

“The goal statement there, for me, is kind of a minimum. That is something we have to do no matter what. We should always be looking to attract retain and value our exceptional staff. So, when you say, ‘is that rigorous enough?’ to me, perhaps we could have gone a bit further with that because I think that’s the bare minimum we should be doing,” Flaherty said.

Kirby reiterated that the work plan is where the majority of that will be.

“A lot of this was created based on our Saturday retreat and where the feedback led us to. How these things look will be recognized more through the work plan than they will actually through the goal. I have in my mind the knowledge of what we’ve been doing since the implementation meeting, that we had with our implementation group, and some of the action steps,” Kirby said. “A lot of these ends, we don’t even know what it’s going to look like. Part of what we will be doing is pushing ourselves to get beyond where we are today.”

Flaherty’s concerns remained however as she reiterated that she would like the plan to show members of the community that LOCS is “striving to be one of the best districts in the state if not the country.”

“I don’t know if, not having been part of the entire process, if I would gain that from just reading the school statement as it’s written right now,” Flaherty said. “If we’re saying that it’s going to come out of the objectives and we’ll be able to define a little bit of tangibility in those objectives then sure, that would be great. But right now, looking at it, I just want to make sure that we’re setting the bar at the right level for Lake Orion.”

After some back and forth, it became clear that if the work plan is what will show the “rigor”, the main concern would lie in the board’s ability to track the progress of the work plan to ensure that it is up to their standards.

According to MASB, one of the most important parts of implementation is the reporting of progress back to the board, something Kirby stated he plans to further discuss with board members in the upcoming weeks.

The board did not take action on the plan and agreed to meet with Kirby in smaller groups to discuss the logistics for receiving reports on the process after approval and the district begins implementation.

 

One Response to "Lake Orion school board discusses new strategic plan ahead of anticipated vote"

  1. Eric   April 26, 2022 at 10:54 am

    Flaherty’s concerns remained however as she reiterated that she would like the plan to show members of the community that LOCS is “striving to be one of the best districts in the state if not the country.”

    Well the data just became available and Lake Orion isn’t even in the top 50 for the state let alone one of the best in the country. I guess maybe we should set realistic goals.

    https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2022/04/these-are-the-50-highest-rated-michigan-high-schools-in-the-new-us-news-rankings.html

    Eric

    Reply

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