Upper Arlington News

School notes

Work teams delve into district planning process

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Of all the firsts I have experienced in my 10 months in Upper Arlington, I am most excited about the opportunity that stands before our school district now.

We are about to journey down a path paved by the expectations and desires of our community. Most importantly, this journey will enable us to focus on making positive, measurable changes and helping us ensure we are meeting the individual needs of each of our students.

To really explain this journey toward our future, I must start by looking back.

Last fall, dozens of community members opened up their homes to friends, neighbors and colleagues and invited Treasurer Andrew Geistfeld and me to join them in a conversation about our school district. So we went from home to home and we talked.

More importantly, we also listened. We really listened. Within several weeks, three clear themes had emerged: efficiency, accountability and results.

Our stakeholders want a district that functions efficiently from both financial and operational perspectives; they want a school district that holds itself accountable for student achievement; and they want a school district that ensures its programs result in a quality learning experience for each individual student.

Efficiency, accountability and results -- we began calling this our road map for the future, and we kept that road map firmly in mind as we began to explore options for our strategic planning process.

During our community conversations, many residents encouraged us to use a private-sector planning model.

This was an intriguing idea, and our board of education reached out to experts in the strategic planning field to learn more. After many in-depth, frank discussions about the current state of our district and our future direction, we realized that we needed to try something totally new. We needed to write a new book to drive the strategic planning process.

Our partners at Battelle for Kids, a nationally known nonprofit that specializes in school improvement, have helped us to do just that. Together, we have crafted a hybrid approach that brings together the best from the public and private sectors.

Our process will be focused and results-oriented, like a private-sector model, while remaining rich with opportunities for community engagement and feedback, like a public-sector model.

The two-phase process begins with three work teams led by community volunteers. During the next three months, each team will take a deep dive into one area of our road map and prepare briefing papers to present to the board of education by July.

In the second phase of the process, our strategic coordination group will use those briefing papers to draft a three-year strategic plan that is focused, agile and contains measurable goals that directly benefit our students.

We are excited about our innovative process, but we know it cannot be successful unless it is done in partnership with our community. Each step of the process will include one or more opportunities for community involvement or feedback.

We will provide regular public updates on the process of our work teams throughout the spring through columns like these, presentations at board of education meetings, the district website and social media outlets.

During the next few months, we'll be working diligently to forge a new path for strategic planning while staying true to our road map and to our district's strong tradition of achievement and excellence.

It's an exciting time for Upper Arlington schools, and I hope you'll join us on the journey. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions about our schools. I can be reached online at superintendent@uaschools.org, by phone at 614-487-5030 and @imhoffpaul on Twitter.

Paul Imhoff is superintendent of Upper Arlington schools.

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