I'm not sure if I've talked much about the Strategic Planning Committee here but it is something that I have been involved with for over a year. It is a diverse group of individuals from various stakeholder groups who are working together to create a five year 'Strategic Plan' that will guide us as we move forward in our school system. I was invited by the Superintendent of our schools to participate as a representative of Stand for Children. It has been an interesting process facilitated by a paid professional group that works with school systems and businesses as they create such plans. Honestly I have been less than impressed with the facilitators. They are personable guys but it seems that they are not doing much. There is one parent on the committee who could run the entire show. He is well spoken and grasps what needs to be done and then gets things done. I signed onto the 'Possibilities' team from the beginning. We were tasked with looking for innovative, visionary models of education that could be applied in our town. We all did research but have been in agreement that our work has been frustrating and with little direction from the beginning. That is until yesterday. We spent the entire day working together to craft a first draft of goals based on our needs assessment and informed by the research we have done and decisions that have been made around what models we want to bring to our school system. (mainly 21st Century Schools) We came away from the meeting with the first draft of our goals. It felt good to have a product after so many months of going through this process. I think it gave all of us renewed enthusiasm to get us through the next phase of the process.
Last night we held the first of two 'Town Hall' meetings to share information about the Strategic Plan. We have almost 9,000 kids in our schools and have been spreading the word about this meeting for the last month. Fliers, phone calls, e-invites, face book, personal asks..... turnout was 35 people! Sadly I expected as much. One of our Assistant Superintendents was very disappointed with the turnout particularly considering the push for turnout. I think it is telling. There seems to be a general sense of complacency about our schools yet parents complain. I suppose it is human nature for people to complain and then sit back on their laurels and expect others to make improvements. Something else that most likely plays a role in all of this is the economic diversity in our community. Last night I learned that 39% of our students receive free and reduced lunch and are living in poverty. I was shocked! Those are the families we know about who avail themselves of the services provided by the town. I am certain that our numbers do not reflect all the families living in poverty in our community. I would guess that it is closer to 45% to 50% who are struggling with this issue. If people are struggling from week to week to feed their families, pay their bills and keep a roof over their heads it may be too much to ask them to become active in their greater school community. My question is where is the other 50% of families?