The Moorestown Board of Education approved broad-based strategic plans at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 15. The strategic plans were approved with an eight-to-one vote, with board member Peter Palko being the one negative vote, as he felt the goals were too generic and not measurable.
At the previous BOE meeting, the strategic goals were presented by consultant Judith Wilson, a retired superintendent from Princeton Regional School District. Since retiring, she has been providing personnel search and strategic planning services to school districts throughout New Jersey and neighboring states.
The strategic plans stated the vision was to “enhance our academic, emotional and social foundations while creating a collaborative learning environment which fosters global awareness through personal opportunities and individual growth.”
There were three broad-based goals to establish a culture of innovation to facilitate authentic growth and development of engaged, dynamic and productive learners; provide resources, targeted instruction and interventions tailored to learners’ foundational needs at all grade levels; and design opportunities that promote self-awareness, confidence, personal responsibility and social mindfulness to provide the foundation for competent local and global citizenship.
The board didn’t approve the strategic plans that night because it had just received the report and wanted more time to go over her suggestions.
The board came back to the strategic plans last Tuesday night, starting with Palko voicing his concern. After doing some research on strategic plans from other schools in the state, Palko felt the plans and goals presented needed to be more specific and measurable.
“I believe several people communicated (the goals) felt very generic in nature and didn’t necessarily provide any metrics or challenging us to get to another level. If we want to have generic strategies, we can do that, but we have to have some action-oriented goals that are communicated to us that explain the statements,” Palko said.
Board President Kathy Goldenberg, Vice President David A. Weinstein and member Sheryl Sawin had attended planning meetings for the strategic plans. From their understanding, the broad-based goals are to be used as a guiding point. The specific actions would be created from each of those goals in smaller committees. Acting Superintendent Lynn Shugars reinforced their beliefs.
“The idea is that those committees come together, take each of the goals and create action plans from there,” Shugars said.
Shugars suggested the board make a motion that night to approve the strategic plans, so it can get the ball rolling. Shugars also reminded the board that Wilson’s services for strategic planning is still available and suggested MTPS continue to use her services as the administration is already pretty busy.
“I think it is important that the board, if they choose to, approve these goals because I think it is difficult for people to get excited and engaged in action plans if they don’t feel like this is the direction we’re going. The board supports this, and we’re going ahead with this,” Shugars said.
“I have full confidence with our oversight and (administration/staff members) hard work that we’re going to get a product that we’re going to be very comfortable with as a community and as a board, that is going to get us to a point that we know where we’re heading, we know how to measure it and how to modify it year after year to make or modify the goals. I think all of us want the best possible district we can have for the students. We want goals that can get us there within the confines of what we can and can’t do,” Weinstein said.
The next step is to appoint co-chairs for each goal who will then form collaborative committees of colleagues, community specialists, BOE members and people who are close to the content and work of the goal. Typically, a committee is no more than 10 people.
Timelines would be implemented and action plans developed by each committee. The work will produce action plans that will be helpful and used for planning and decision-making purposes for following years.
“This effort will take time to prepare an excellent and detailed strategic plan,” Goldenberg said.
Palko and board member Brandon Pugh said they would like summaries of these meetings and suggestions made by the groups.
According to Shugars, ideally, the specifics of the strategic plans would be done by December so they can use it as a guide for the 2016–2017 school year and in budgeting decisions.
In other news:
• Rob Notley from New Road Construction gave a presentation updating the public on the construction and work done on the schools from the bond referendum last year. According to Notley, $13.3 million of work has been completed or is near completion in all the buildings. To see where all of the projects on the buildings are, visit www.mtps.com and click on the link under Construction Calendars.
“It’s been a successful summer,” Notley said.
• Susan Tosti, the English/language arts supervisor, gave a presentation on the language arts curriculum at MTPS giving information such as goals, program reviews of each grade level, curriculum highlights and the next steps for future learning and implementation. Each month, a presentation is planned to be given to the board by a different branch of academic learning in the schools.
• The next BOE meeting will be on Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the William Allen Middle School.