RANCHESTER — Sheridan County School District 1 staff, administrators and community members met Wednesday and Thursday to evaluate the district’s strengths and weaknesses and update its strategic plan.
The two-day work session was the next step in a process that began in May that involved gathering feedback from more than 100 people including teachers, staff, administrators, parents, students and community members about the district and its schools.
In that process, third party facilitators compiled 40 pages of district strengths and 30 pages of targeted areas for improvement, independent contractor Sue Burch said. Burch, from Colorado Springs,Colo., and independent contractor Vikki Deuel, from Grand Island, Neb., condensed those documents into shorter lists of strengths and weaknesses for consideration at this week’s work session.
District staff and stakeholders then composed action plans to systematically address areas in need of improvement.
“Any good organization has its strategic plan to focus it on where it’s going,” Superintendent Marty Kobza said.
“Strategic plans help with the focusing of the resources as well as the energy of the organization to make sure we’re achieving the best possible goals,” he added. “The way we feel about it is the only way we get better is to look at things truthfully and honestly and figure out how we can grow.”
SCSD1 completed a strategic plan a few years ago, but an effective strategic plan should be revisited in-depth every four years, Kobza said.
The district hired facilitators at a cost of approximately $8,000 to provide an objective viewpoint for crafting the strategic plan. Kobza said that encouraged participants to be open and honest with their feedback.
“In regards to this strategic plan, when you think about the fact that this helps to drive everything that we do, and all the funds that we allocate, and the personnel decisions we make over the next several years, this is an extremely important investment of time and resources,” Kobza said.
After the facilitators met with focus groups in May, they evaluated the pages of strengths, referred to as blue ribbon areas, and weaknesses, referred to as target areas, and grouped similarities to condense the lists, giving more weight to issues addressed by multiple people, Burch said.
On Wednesday, work session attendees sifted nine pages of strengths and 10 pages of weaknesses into Top 20 lists and aligned those lists with the school board’s four main goals, which are: implement a strategic plan; increase student learning; attract, develop and retain highly qualified staff; and increase and improve communications.
On Thursday, attendees split into four action planning teams. Each team took one board goal and the target areas under that goal and wrote action plans that laid out specific processes, timelines and evaluation methods for each target area.
At the end of the process, key blue ribbon areas included student achievement, safe and productive school climates, effective staff and the district’s four-day school week.
Target areas included providing more opportunities for all learners at their level and developing stronger partnerships with businesses, surrounding communities and the Wyoming Legislature, Burch said.
Kobza added that providing timely and accessible communication was a key area in need of improvement.
The district is looking at multiple ways to communicate with staff, students, parents and the community through its website, social media and written notices. The district also wants to more aggressively recruit the best staff it can rather than waiting for people to show up on their doorstep, Kobza said.
Another target area included making SCSD1 an effective professional learning community that fosters district-wide collaboration between teachers and administrators to constantly promote and evaluate student learning.
“As facilitators we really appreciate the fact that everybody who’s participated in the process has a strong desire to be here and is working in a very effective, positive, open manner,” Burch said. “They are very passionate about their district.”