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School board set to adopt strategic plan
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Effingham County school board members are expected to complete the long process behind a strategic plan at their meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Board members also will vote on their application to be a strategic waiver system. Formulating a strategic plan is part of the waiver application process. The strategic plan is a document to guide the system for three to five years, but it also address individual school improvement plans.

“It is a fluid document,” said Judith Shuman, who has been shepherding the school system through the strategic waiver process.

Among the goals outlined in the strategic plan are providing high-quality professional learning to all staff, ensuring all students are college and career ready and increasing access to 21st century technology. The five goal areas in the plan are: continuous improvement, resources and support system, teaching and assessing for learning, governance and leadership, and purpose and direction.

A community engagement session was held last September, with about 30 people taking part. Tony Arasi, the Georgia School Board Association’s director of board development, said the first group heard “some of the great things the district was doing and some of the challenges.”

An online survey also was conducted, and there were about 300 responses. The bulk of the people who responded were not school system employees, Arasi said.

“Based on what people checked off, about 86 or 87 percent ID’d themselves as parents, grandparents or guardians,” he said. “Strategic planning doesn’t sound exciting but it is very important.”

A planning team of approximately 30 people, including district personnel, board members and parents, met for two days to develop strategic goals.

“I want to commend the superintendent and board members — you are accountable to community members in believing and trusting the community stakeholder input would be valuable and would be used,” Arasi said. “It says an awful lot. That’s putting your money where your mouth is.”

Arasi also complimented Superintendent Randy Shearouse and the board members for following the philosophy of AdvancED, the accrediting association.

“They’re very big on strategic planning,” he said. “They’re very big on stakeholder involvement. And you were really able to merge all three of those. Your district was serious enough to make sure you were aligned and working along with the AdvanceD recommendations. I think the district did a very good job of thinking strategically through the strategic plan. Your district did a great job aligning many of the things heard from the stakeholder with what is the work of a school district. It took a lot of time and listening to a lot of people.”

Arasi said the GSBA team that helped with the strategic plan process had a great experience, and he believes the plan before the board members is great.

“We believe we have a good process but it only works if people take it seriously,” he said. “It couldn’t have gone better.”

The system conducted two rounds of stakeholder surveys in advanced of the AdvancED accreditation team visit. Shuman said because the AdvancED standards are reflected in the system’s goal areas, the system will be better positioned at the five-year interval to address weaknesses.

“So we have multiple layers of stakeholder input included in the strategic plan,” Shuman said.

The system will use the data from2015 as its baseline for where it is succeeding or it is falling behind its targets.

Shearouse said going with the AdvancED standards has prepared the board and its personnel.

“I know five years seems a long away,” he said, “but five years goes by pretty quickly.”