Fort Smith schools chief to try new strat­egy

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DAVE HUGHES

FORT SMITH — Af­ter the 30-year run of Su­per­in­ten­dent Benny Gooden, his suc­ces­sor thinks it is time to re­fo­cus and re­flect on the Fort Smith School District’s di­rec­tion.

Early next month, the process to draw up a strate­gic plan that will guide the district for the next five years will be­gin. It will take about six months to create the plan and could in­volve as many as 100 mem­bers of the com­mu­nity.

“We’ve had strong and steady lead­er­ship for about 30 years,” Su­per­in­ten­dent Doug Brubaker said. “It’s a good op­por­tu­nity to take a fresh look at ev­ery­thing that we do.”

Brubaker took over as su­per­in­ten­dent in late Jan­uary af­ter Gooden re­tired from the po­si­tion in April 2016. Brubaker pledged to the Fort Smith School Board dur­ing his tran­si­tion that he would ini­ti­ate the strate­gic plan.

Af­ter tak­ing on the new job, Brubaker said, he went to each school and vis­ited around the com­mu­nity and lis­tened to peo­ple’s com­ments and ideas. The plan pro­vides a process for fo­cus­ing on the ideas for which there is the most con­sen­sus, he said.

The strate­gic plan process will start with the se­lec­tion of an ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee com­posed of about 25 mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, par­ents, ed­u­ca­tors, busi­ness peo­ple, com­mu­nity lead­ers and oth­ers, Brubaker said.

Cam­bridge Strate­gic Ser­vices of Char­lottesville, Va., which the School Board hired in May, will guide the district

through the process as it has for more than 1,000 school dis­tricts around the coun­try, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Kevin Cast­ner said.

The com­pany has been suc­cess­ful, he said, be­cause in­stead of the school board and su­per­in­ten­dent mak­ing the plan­ning de­ci­sions, Cam­bridge has the com­mu­nity take charge of the plan­ning.

“That is the group that is go­ing to de­velop the plan,” Cast­ner said. “It’s not a top­down plan.”

By hav­ing cit­i­zens create the plan, he said, it cre­ates a sense of own­er­ship among stake­hold­ers, a part­ner­ship and trust within the district.

Brubaker said the ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee will de­cide on five to seven goals and ob­jec­tives. Ac­tion teams of 12-15 mem­bers will work out the strate­gies needed to ac­com­plish the goals, how long it will take to im­ple­ment them and de­ter­mine the re­sources that will be needed.

He said he didn’t know on what is­sues the com­mit­tee would put their fo­cus. That would be up to the com­mit­tee.

Through­out his lis­ten­ing tour, Brubaker said re­cur­ring top­ics of in­ter­est or con­cern in the com­mu­nity in­cluded pro­vid­ing stu­dents with a safe and se­cure learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment and pre­par­ing stu­dents to meet the de­mands for col­lege or to move into a ca­reer af­ter high school.

The strate­gic plan could have an ef­fect on the district’s in­fra­struc­ture needs, Brubaker said. Based on strate­gies cho­sen, the plan would have to de­ter­mine what the needs would be to ac­com­plish them, whether the district could ful­fill those needs and, if not, what it would take to pro­vide for them.

“If we made a change, we would just want to make sure we had the build­ings that would al­low us to ac­com­plish that,” he said.

A draft sched­ule pro­poses that the plan­ning process be­gin Aug. 3 with an in­tro­duc­tion by Cast­ner dur­ing a Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion con­fer­ence, and a pub­lic in­tro­duc­tion later in the day.

Peo­ple in­ter­ested in serv­ing on the ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee would be sought and cho­sen and would meet, guided by a Cam­bridge staff mem­ber, for a three-day plan­ning ses­sion in late Au­gust to de­velop a draft plan.

The ac­tion teams would be se­lected in Septem­ber and work through Novem­ber flesh­ing out the goals and ob­jec­tives. The teams would sub­mit re­ports to the strate­gic plan team, which would fi­nal­ize the plan in De­cem­ber.

It would be turned over to the School Board and Brubaker for fi­nal ap­proval in De­cem­ber or Jan­uary. Ac­cord­ing to the pro­posed sched­ule, Brubaker would be tasked with cre­at­ing the time­line for the plan’s im­ple­men­ta­tion over five years and de­ter­mine if tax in­creases would have to be sought.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.