Lenape Regional High School District holds fourth and final strategic planning forum

The events have allowed officials to solicit input from the public to use in the creation of a new, five-year strategic plan for the district.

Lenape High School student Shelby Whetstone writes down what her group believes are some of the top challenges facing the Lenape Regional High School District

Despite snowfall earlier in the day and bitterly cold air after sunset, students, staff, families and stakeholders of the Lenape Regional High School District packed the cafeteria at Lenape High School on Wednesday to do their part shaping the future of the district.

The meeting marked the fourth and final strategic planning forum held by Lenape Regional High School District officials to solicit input from the public for officials to use in the creation of a new, five-year strategic plan for the district.

With this week’s final meeting held at Lenape High School, the district successfully hosted a forum at all four of its high schools, starting with a meeting Cherokee High School in October and two meetings in November at Shawnee High School and Seneca High School, respectively.

According to LRHSD Superintendent Carol Birnbohm, the district last crafted a strategic plan 10 years ago, with that plan meant to outline the district’s future for the following 10 years.

Yet when looking to create this new plan for the district, Birnbohm said school districts in recent years have been creating plans that outline just three to five years due to how rapidly the field of education has been changing from one year to the next.

“There’s so much change in education and uncertainty, and there are future jobs that don’t even exist yet that we’re preparing our kids for,” Birnbohm said.

Various groups discuss what they feel are the strengths and challenges of the Lenape Regional High School District.

For the specifics of this Wednesday’s event, attendees were seated at tables of about six to 10 people, with forum organizers assigning guests to tables so there was a blend of differing viewpoints from students, parents, staff, and general members of the public.

Once together, the groups debated among themselves about the strengths and challenges of the district, as well as what aspects they’d like to strengthen or change for the district in five years.

Attendees offered a wide variety of opinions throughout the evening, from pride in the district’s academics, athletics and extracurricular activities, to concerns about budget cuts, how elective classes are weighted in students’ grade point averages and the transition to high school for each year’s incoming freshman class.

Although this weeks’ event marked the conclusion in the district’s series of community-wide strategic planning forums, Birnbohm said organizers had yet to start the process of attempting to identify any trends or ideas for the future, as they still had plans to gather more data with future interviews and a community-wide survey.

With that in mind, she linked the district’s strategic planning process into this year’s district-wide theme of “better together.”

“Without input from all of our stakeholders, we can’t be better without you,” Birnbohm said to the crowd. “They go hand-in-hand.”

Jessie Adams Jr. of the New Jersey School Boards Association, who was at the meeting to help organize the forum and collect data, echoed Birnbohm’s sentiments.

“The board of education and the superintendent and the staff could go off into the ivory tower and create something and I’m sure it would be good, but would it meet the needs of all of the stakeholders…your board has a made a commitment that by doing this (community-wide strategic planning) they want to hear from the stakeholder,” Adams said.