The Bexley City School District has taken the first step in embarking on a strategic plan to guide instruction for the next several years.

At their Feb. 12 meeting, school board members unanimously approved a contract to hire Cincinnati-based consulting firm Leadership Excelleration Inc. to administer the strategic plan.

The strategic plan will have several facets, including a community survey and focus groups with parents, students and teachers, according to Leadership Excelleration's proposal.

"It's an overall presentation of how to proceed," Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller said. "Ultimately, an overall plan is presented to the board of education (for final approval)."

The contract with Leadership Excelleration has two components. The firm will develop and train a leadership team with district representatives and community members to conduct the strategic plan at a cost of $70,750, and the firm will coordinate the steps of completing the strategic plan at a cost of $66,000.

Leadership Excelleration's proposal stood out from four others that the district received because of the breadth of its experience in completing strategic plans for organizations such as Nationwide Children's Hospital and school districts such as the Cincinnati Public Schools, Miller said.

"They're providing opportunities to benchmark and look at what other districts are doing," she said.

Before approving Leadership Excelleration's contract, board members debated the logic of moving forward without interviewing the firm's executives.

"After choosing a superintendent and choosing a treasurer, this is the second most important decision we've made for the future of the district," board member Mike Denison said. "I'm slightly uncomfortable making this decision sight unseen."

Board member Melissa Lacroix said the board charged Miller with soliciting proposals from firms to conduct the strategic plan, evaluating their qualifications and recommending the best candidate.

"The superintendent's job is to execute the strategic plan. She has done the due diligence," Lacroix said. "She clearly told us she would submit the best candidate, and we would approve or not."

Leadership Excelleration's contract includes consultations with each of the five school board members to gather their input for the plan.

"We're in the position to direct them how we want this done," board president John Barno said.

Diane Egbers, president of Leadership Excelleration, is scheduled to appear at the board's March 12 monthly meeting to discuss the next steps in the process.

According to the contract, the school district initially developed its mission, vision and strategic priorities in 2001, and in 2007-08, the community reviewed and revised them. The school board reviewed and revised the proposed policy in late 2008 and adopted the current language in February 2009.