By Megan Kelley
With talks of beginning their search for a superintendent, the board also discussed strategic planning.
The idea of creating a new strategic plan had been discussed twice previously, with no clear decision being made either time.
The discussion opened with Trustee Nate Butki stating his concern with piling up board projects.
“I think terminology matters to get us all on the same page. When we refer to the strategic plan…we’ve done every year a reset of the goals and refresh of the goals. I think we’ve done an excellent job of that. So, some of the notion that we’re operating without a strategic plan, or that we’re delinquent in that, we just need to be a little sharper on what we have and what we don’t,” said Butki. “When I saw the consultant’s (Kay Cornell and Suzanne Klein) material on what they provided back with their examples…I didn’t see a material difference between what we have and what they’ve showed us would be the outcome of the process of refreshing the strategic plan.”
Superintendent Marion Ginopolis explained that the end result of strategic planning is not the point, it’s the process.
“The process of doing strategic planning is the most important thing you do because it involves bringing people in…if you just hand someone a piece of paper and say, ‘this is the board’s strategic plan,’ it does not have the same amount of impact or meaning as it would if they went through the process of participating in it,” Ginopolis said.
With this point, Singer brought up the question of: if the process is important, then why wouldn’t the board want to postpone strategic planning for when the board hires a new superintendent?
“The process of going through it is very important, a lot of input comes in. Do we want to do that this year so that’s something the new superintendent sees what we’ve gone through, or do we want the new superintendent to be organically seeing that?” questioned Singer.
Weidman explained that the district has not updated their plan in several years and that they, as a district, need to make a clear statement about who they are, what they do and where they’re going in order for superintendents that may be interested in the district to know what they’re buying into.
Arnett added that upon going to market for a new superintendent, there are two directions: one where the district searches to find a superintendent to fit their mold; or one where the district searches to find a superintendent that will help develop the plan and help lead them forward in that process.
According to McQuiston, the board put off creating a new and in-depth strategic plan for the past three to five years.
“We’re a different district, we’re still Lake Orion, we’re still the Dragons but what we’ve done with curriculum and what we’ve done with students and what we’ve done financially…are different,” said McQuiston. “This (the current strategic plan) is awesome, this is beautiful, you’re right, it’s an incredible plan and we’ve been faithful to keep it up and to rework it, but…what this isn’t is a refresh. It isn’t a ‘go back to the community and involve them’…As a board, we adopt a vision and mission that isn’t just from us, it’s from the community, it’s from the stakeholders. The goals are set and when we move forward in this it defines who we are, and to look for the next leader for the district and to know what we’re looking for…to be able to draw the right fit in the leadership is logical, it’s what schools do.”
Butki responded by stating that the community voting to approve the recent $160 million bond proposal is essentially the community buying into their current strategic plan and again stated that deciding to refresh the strategic plan would require a lot of work still and questioned if they could do all of the things they need to do well in the amount of time that they have?
Ginopolis interjected a back-and-forth discussion between Butki and Weidman to state that the objectives need to be updated because the objectives are what she and her cabinet members use to do their jobs properly.
“First of all, I’m going to be really realistic and I’m not a business person,” said board Secretary Dana Mermell. “This is holding so much weight, and I realize we have to do this, but school districts ran really well before they even started with strategic plans. The state gives us tons of mandates. Whether we do this this fall or next fall, Heidi’s (Mercer, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning) going to run a phenomenal program. So, I understand the need for this, (but) my primary concern with board work right now is hiring a superintendent. How much is this going to be overlapping? If we’re going to be asking for community input when hiring a superintendent and community input with this, I mean, is that too much that people are going to be like, ‘we’re overwhelmed, we don’t want to do this?’ Plus, I do understand both sides…but I think there’s merit in it if the person (the new superintendent) comes in and can see the community working on the strategic plan and seeing what our community and our culture is all about… I have a lot of ideas about what I think that we should be looking for in a superintendent and I don’t know that we necessarily need to update this to make sure that we get a quality person.”
Weidman responded that he felt it was more about letting a new superintendent know the future of the district.
The discussion continued with four board members seemingly leaning toward the side of waiting to create a new strategic plan and three wanting to move forward, with neither side ready to budge.
“I think the whole thing is, at the very beginning of this process there was a part of us that said we wanted to wait until after the hiring of the superintendent to do the strategic plan,” said Vice President Scott Taylor. “The question has been asked 20 different ways and we’ve got the same answer. It’s almost like we’re getting beat down until we just give the answer that’s, ‘Yes, let’s just do the strategic plan just to say we’re doing it.’ We want to be able to put the effort into it so that it’s complete and correct.”
With the need to conduct a superintendent search looming and the question of whether or not the new superintendent should be a part of strategic plan discussion, more than half of the board was leaning toward pushing strategic planning back.
However, due to time constraints, the discussion was cut off before a final decision could be reached. The discussion is expected to continue at a later date.