The Systems Planning Experience at Chatfield Public Schools
Chatfield Public Schools administrators, staff, teachers, School Board members, parents, community members, and students came together for two strategic planning sessions. Suzanne Riley and Amy Grover, facilitators from the Southeast Service Cooperative, guided the group through a process to explore the current realities of the school system and identify large scale decision-making needs in the near future.Superintendent Ed Harris believed that input from parents would be crucial in efforts to be responsive to the desires of the community as they considered big questions such as desired teaching and learning outcomes and upcoming challenges relating to facilities and budget. As such, the 28 participants represented the community well and were very actively involved in the discussion and process.
During the first evening session, the initial focus was on developing shared values. Individuals identified their personal values and then reflected on them during group establishment of shared organizational values. Shared values provide an umbrella that help clarify expected behavior and actions, how decisions should be made, what strategies will be selected to fulfill the district mission, what is important to the school system, and solidifies the school culture.
Superintendent Harris also presented a district status briefing, which provided information about academic performance, staff development, budget/finances, and facility/operations. This grounding led us into a “Context Map” activity then helped to establish a collective sense of the district’s current planning status and helped to explore external and internal influences that impact the work done within the district. Considering the district status information and the context map, the group then developed “Big Questions”, which are overarching questions about issues so significant that a response is necessary for continued and future success. These questions help focus energies and keep the district aligned to its goals.
During the second session, the group of stakeholders developed a set of “Bold Steps”, which are specific ideas or initiatives that drive creative action and will propel Chatfield Schools forward. These are statements of what will be done to go from “good to great” and provide the foundation for forming a strong vision linked to immediate steps. Suzanne and Amy provided facilitation and guided activities that ensured that work progressed from brainstorming, to prioritization, to finalization of several focus areas for future planning.
This work provided guidance and focus for leaders in making strategic, proactive, and well-planned decisions that move the district toward their goals. This process is a rewarding experience for stakeholders, and the SSC staff was honored to help Chatfield establish where they are going and how they will get there.