The Steamboat Springs School Board’s adoption of three strategic anchors at last week’s board meeting signaled the board’s interest in pursuing a formal strategic planning process.
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At that meeting, board members heard a presentation from John Messelt, with The Cambrian Group, a national educational strategic planning organization that has a history of working with high-performing districts like Steamboat. Messelt, who worked with Superintendent Brad Meeks on strategic planning at his former district, provided the Steamboat School Board with an overview of what the process could look like.
Messelt emphasized that strategic planning begins with an organization identifying its core values and then using those values to guide the creation of strategic systems through disciplined planning. He defined strategic planning as “the means by which an organization constantly recreates itself toward extraordinary purposes.”
We applaud the district’s efforts to plan more effectively for the future, and we think the approach, as outlined by Meeks and Messelt, is a good one. We support the district’s hiring of an outside facilitator to help guide the long-range planning process and implement a detailed strategic plan, which can serve as a blueprint for where the district is headed and how to get there.
The real work will be done by a district strategic planning team and several different action teams that will be tasked with making sure the plan and its accompanying goals become a reality. In all, the effort could involve about 150 different people representing a large cross-section of the community and school.
From Meeks’ perspective, a strategic plan is a powerful tool that can provide stability and focus for district staff members. Since becoming Steamboat’s superintendent three years ago, Meeks said he has experienced eight board changes and has worked with 12 different board members. A strategic plan would offer continuity and could serve as a filter for gauging the relevance and effectiveness of new ideas presented by changing leadership.
The $25,000 to $30,000 the school district will spend on hiring a consultant to guide its strategic planning process is money well spent in the long term. District resources will be better allocated with less chance of waste if the district is following a clear plan.
And as the district grapples with various issues such as growing enrollment and new state testing requirements, a strategic plan can serve to guide district officials as they make capital decisions and allocate resources year to year.
The strategic planning process, as outlined by Meeks, also would involve key stakeholders from the very beginning of the process, fostering community buy-in and broadening the community’s base knowledge of district operations and goals.
Meeks also has indicated the plan would be reviewed annually with the original strategic planning team reconvening regularly to evaluate if progress is being made and the goals of the plan are being met. This built-in review process is key and helps ensure the plan is alive, adaptable and actually being used.
Ultimately, the strategic plan can serve as a beacon for the district, providing clear direction and continuity for changing leadership throughout time. Steamboat school leaders are wise to pursue this type of vision for the district, which we think will produce clear focus and a set of achievable goals to improve student outcomes and inspire an already outstanding district to achieve even more.