[Reprinted with permission from Nancy Jester’s blog]
The DeKalb Board of Education recently approved a new strategic planning process. I use the word “new” purposefully. In 2011, DeKalb engaged the GSBA (Georgia School Boards Association) to assist in the development of a strategic plan. As Ronald Reagan would say, “There you go again,” because DeKalb has once again asked the GSBA to perform the same task.
You can read all about the 2011 effort online. Click here (http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/strategic-plan/community-engagement-session-report-(2011-10-07).pdf ) to read about the community engagement sessions that were held. The district formulated a strategic plan for 2012-2017 entitled the Excellence in Education plan – click here (http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/superintendent/strategic-plan-final-(2012-2017).pdf ) to read it.
So here we go again. Given the GSBA’s political stances, it is highly unlikely they’ll build in autonomy or innovative governance structures for schools in DeKalb. The GSBA lobbied against the Charter School Amendment that was overwhelmingly passed statewide and in DeKalb. The GSBA routinely advocates against legislative measures that puts more power in the hands of parents and taxpayers. Wonder what they think of the charter cluster idea? I say this to illuminate that the entity, tasked with helping DeKalb (yet again) build a strategic plan, holds positions that are at odds with the majority of citizens in our county. So, back to that strategic plan…
The current DeKalb BOE voted to approve this work at their August 5th meeting. https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/ViewMeetingOrder.aspx?S=4054&MID=31840&IID=721877 ). The bid review sheet that awarded the contract to GSBA indicated their proposal would cost the taxpayers $300,000. However, the “action item” read to the board and the public listed the cost at $250,000. If one can get past this discrepancy and the political leanings of this organization, one would still wonder, why the need to jettison the plan that the district adopted in 2012. Was the board made aware that there was a fairly new plan? Why wouldn’t they review it, possibly amend/edit it and see to it that it was implemented with fidelity? Why reinvent the wheel; hiring and paying the same entity to do this all over again?
Better yet, perhaps they should read up on “strategic planning”. I wrote this article about it in June. (http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2013/06/10/476/). Here’s a paragraph I wrote about what an expert in the field said about strategic planning:
“In his critique of strategic planning, Mintzberg tells us that, “Because analysis is not synthesis, strategic planning is not strategy formulation.” He adds that, “Ultimately, the term `strategic planning’ has proved to be an oxymoron.” … “…..strategy emerges over time as intentions collide with and accommodate a changing reality.” Indeed.”
Even more important, read what I uncovered about the relationship between student achievement and strategic planning.
“…Vicki Basham and Fred Lunenburg found an ‘inconsistent and weak’ association between district participation in strategic planning and student achievement, as measured by standardized test scores in reading, language arts, and mathematics in grades 3, 5, 7, and 10. Basham and Lunenburg wrote in their review of prior research that ‘no other study shows a direct tie-in between strategic planning in school districts and school district performance on standardized achievement tests,’ and they can add their own work to the list.” So, as I stated earlier, I want results and strategic planning does not drive results.”
So why are we paying $250k or $300k (which is it?) for a product we already have that will likely do little to nothing to improve the educational lives of our children?
If we are looking for a mission statement, I suggest we look to Hall County. I had the pleasure of meeting the Hall County Superintendent this summer. He’s a different breed of superintendent – more on that in another blog. He told me that the best organizations have simple mission statements – no more than 5 words – that every employee knows from the custodial staff up to the CEO. Hall County’s mission statement: Character, Competency, Rigor For All.