The nearly 100 people who attended the New Albany-Plain Local Schools strategic-planning kickoff Dec. 3 have helped to set the tone for the rest of the planning process.

The nearly 100 people who attended the New Albany-Plain Local Schools strategic-planning kickoff Dec. 3 have helped to set the tone for the rest of the planning process.

District communications director Jeff Warner said the kickoff event was just another way to engage the community in the planning process.

"It expands the community's input into the process," he said.

Those who attended the meeting in the New Albany High School Jefferson Room were divided into small groups and asked four open-ended questions to gain a better idea of the community's goals for the school district, said Debra Lowery, strategic-plan coordinator and community liaison.

The report has been provided to the 35 members of the planning committee and is available on the district's Web site:

The first question, regarding the community's view of a successful school district, garnered 61 responses, which then were pared after participants were asked to rank their top three choices.

According to data from the event, the greatest number of points for a characteristic of a successful school district was given to the ability to attract and retain high-quality teachers.

The next two point-getters were academic excellence and meeting the needs of all students.

Other responses included critical thinkers, high college-placement rate and high expectations.

The next question asked participants about the current strengths of the school district that would help it achieve its far-reaching mission.

Forty-three strengths were identified, led by involved and committed parents and families, single campus and energetic teachers.

The third question asked about the most critical issues facing the district.

Participants identified 44 issues and ranked facility needs, maintaining trust between the community and school leaders and the high tax burden on residents among their main concerns.

The final question asked, "What characteristics will our students and graduates need to possess in order to succeed in the world?"

Three major themes were identified through this question: preparedness, character and values, and citizenship.

Within the preparedness category, participants said students should leave NAHS prepared for both social and academic challenges, as well as have a good understanding of life skills.

In the "character and values" category, participants said they would like to see students leave with aspiration goals, respect for self and others and be ethical and committed to values.

They also said they hope students would leave with an understanding of the importance of service learning and a global awareness and thinking.

Other characteristics participants identified were analytical and problem-solving skills, integrity, and being academically and socially well-rounded.

Lowery said the report was given to the 35-member planning committee, which will meet for a three-day planning session beginning Jan. 8.

Board member Mike Klein, a member of the planning committee, said the qualitative information from the kickoff meeting is good to have.

"I think it is just one more piece of information that helps the planning team in developing strategies," he said. "I'm a big believer in any sort of data that is provided, whether it is quantitative or qualitative."

Lowery said the group, made up of 20 community members, including Klein, incoming board member Laura Kohler and 15 staff members (four of whom are residents), will use the community information for background about what the community expects the finished strategic plan to accomplish.

"The planning process itself just calls for them (the planning committee) to provide their own personal input," Lowery said. "We hope they can use this to gain a broader perspective of community opinion."

Warner said planning committee members have an opportunity to study and evaluate the data from the event.