District Strategic Plan
Ms. Williams commended Mr. Haddow for the job he had done in reworking the initial draft and on the project as a whole. Ms. Williams asked about the second goal. Mr. Haddow explained that GMSD requires professional development points be earned by its teachers. So, the district proposes to offer best practices seminars where teachers can attend to obtain points. He further explained that points could also be obtained by attending “outside” seminars approved by GMSD. Funding for these seminars may be given by the principal or by the district. Mr. Manuel said that schools had previously been given an allotment from SCS to be spent at the county warehouse for things like furniture or supplies. GMSD handles things a little differently in that it has no dedicated warehouse stocked with these items. So, instead, an allotment is given to each school for it to spend on these items as the district uses a direct billing system. The allotment may also be used, at the principal’s discretion, to help a teacher defray the costs of outside seminars.
He went on to explain that some of the surveys are optional and some are required, such as the one(s) for the Vanderbilt Study. Mr. Haddow added that another survey was on the horizon, called the "Advanced Data Accreditation Survey." This survey will be sent to all stakeholders. Mr. Dely added that this section of the strategic plan also included data received from parent and student feedback.
Ms. Fisher then turned to questioning the beliefs in the document. She felt that the wording should be more definite. Mr. Haddow acknowledged that this section was one that needed to be tweeked.
He gave an example of the goal being defined as having an overall average ACT score of 21 for the district. To measure the effectiveness of means employed to help students obtain this goal, Mr. Hoover offered early grade literacy and to screen for kindergarten readiness as means for doing this. Mr. Haddow acknowledged that this was a good question and offered his thoughts on the matter.
Mr. Haddow preferred having a “working plan” that contains measures relating to the ultimate goal such as Tennessee Succeed. His philosophy involves putting appropriate beliefs/procedures in place that would complement the overall goals. He gave an example involving the HR department where he has set the goal of responding to anyone within 24 hours; explaining that the bigger goal is how to develop our teaching staff to its fullest potential. He reasoned that trying to respond to the staff within 24 hours of contact would help the district reach the higher goal. He stressed that setting benchmarks would be crucial along the way as a means to help reach the goal. But rather that set up a numerical goal, Mr. Haddow proposed developing all of the children into the best that each one could be even if he or she could not reach a preset numerical goal. Mr. Haddow explained more fully that he envisions (and favors) using the strategic plan to develop a process instead of just a goal because the process would be used to support the goal.
Mr. Manuel added that he had looked at the same type of plan for numerous other school districts across the state, most specifically, Maryville. He remarked that neither it nor others specifically listed any measurable goals as Mr. Hoover described. Mr. Manuel also stated that he was concerned that focusing on just metrics would be quite challenging for the district and suggested that any metric used be viewed over a span of time (like a three year term).
Mr. Hoover suggested that more than just one metric be included in the plan to allow measuring to occur and suggested that 2-4 different ones be included for use. In suggesting this, Mr. Hoover explained that this was reminiscent of putting a man on the moon in the 1960s. He explained that things might have turned out differently for the United States if President Kennedy had simply stated that his goal was to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
Ms. Williams advised Mr. Hoover that the plan, as presented, contained targets in the back of the document and that these targets could be used to accomplish what Mr. Hoover wanted. She further asked if the targets were already set for the next 5 years. Mr. Haddow responded to Ms. Williams’ question by stressing that the variables used might need to be altered or connected along the way and over the lifetime of the plan.
Mr. Haddow reminded the board that they are dealing with a developing child or adolescent. He contrasted this example with that of the data received from an AP test at the end of the year. This data does not determine what measures worked for these children and which ones did not work. He said that this type of data leaves you guessing which measures employed worked to help the child obtain this grade and which ones did not.
Mr. Hoover asked Mr. Haddow what makes this a five year plan if the goals in the plan were 12 months out. Mr. Haddow responded by saying that the plan, as proposed, was a working, living document. By that, he meant to say that the processes are able to be changed along the way with this five year plan. Mr. Hoover reiterated his position that the document needs to provide consistency and that using goals that were able to be measured provided a means by which a vision for the district is theoretically set and does not allow the district to “flip from pillar to post.” He stressed that consistency was the key to reaching a goal.
Mr. Hoover then stated that the training he received from the TSBA after being elected said a five year plan should include measurable goals. He cited the district’s one-to-one plan as an example. Mr. Hoover said again that everything he has ever seen warrants putting measurable goals into a strategic plan and we are simply not doing that. Mr. Manuel disagreed and said that he has not been able to find one in existence yet that does what Mr. Hoover is proposing.
Mr. Manuel went on to say that he did not necessarily disagree with Mr. Hoover but asked how the specific goals were supposed to be picked. If specific goals WERE to be used, Mr. Manuel said he would favor using ACT scores. However, it was noted that the ACT is not a measure for elementary or middle school students. And the ACT did not test on all subjects so that would be a limiting factor to using it.
Mr. Haddow suggested that the length of the plan be shortened from five years to three years. The reason he gave was that GMSD is an emerging school district as opposed to an established one. Mr. Hoover agreed that this first strategic plan should not be five years in length. He went on to say that everyone had previously agreed that having the best district in Tennessee was a common goal but wondered if it were possible to measure the district’s success in achieving the goal.
Ms. Williams said that it would be interesting to ask teachers and parents to describe what the district would look like if it were the “best” one in the state. She recognized, of course, that this would be impossible given the various answers that would be received. For Ms. Williams, she felt that the term “best” would be defined by each class and by each family. She wondered if the board would support this.
Ms. Fisher added that “best,” in her opinion, was not a number but represented what was best for each student. She added that a student may be “best” in leadership skills that can not be measured by a specific number. She asked Mr. Hoover if he wanted specific things picked for the student to be recognized as the best. Mr. Hoover responded by saying that it was hard to be the “best” district if you can’t define what the term “best” means. Mr. Hoover said he favored a 3-5 year goal instead of a one year goal as described earlier by Mr. Haddow because many variables could exist to prevent the district from achieving its goal in one particular year. Using a 3-5 year model would help minimize the effect of these variables. Mr. Hoover admitted that he did not know which particular metrics should be used to measure the effectiveness of the district in reaching its established goals but again likened the use of metrics to landing a man on the moon and not just having the “best” space program.
Ms. Williams asked what the timeline would be for implementing this plan. Would we see this in place for the 2016-2017 school year? Mr. Haddow said yes. Ms. Williams asked if the board would receive information on how effective the district was in meeting its goals during open board meetings. Again, Mr. Haddow said yes. Mr. Manuel added that this could be subject to when information/data was received. In some cases, such as TN Ready scores, the data comes from the state and the timing is beyond the control of the school district.
Mr. Dely re-emphasized his position that the school board should be allowed to say if the district is or is not meeting the board's expectations. Ms. Fisher said that she did not disagree with Mr. Dely’s position but she is comfortable with the plan’s targets and the board could always ask why the target(s) have not been met. Mr. Hoover said that he felt Ms. Fisher was misinterpreting what Mr. Manuel had said. Ms. Fisher responded that the state is the one who sets academic goals, not the district. Mr. Dely said that he felt that the goals set by the state should be viewed as a floor, not a ceiling for the district. He felt that the state’s goal may not be high enough for Germantown. And, he was surely not comfortable with simply accepting the state’s announced goals and letting that be that.
Ms. Fisher wondered if this version of the plan could be placed on the agenda for the next meeting for approval. Mr. Dely stated that he favored not passing the plan until such time as it was complete. He asked what the hurry was in passing the plan at this time. Mr. Haddow wanted to know what in the plan was so disconcerting that it warranted not passing it “as is” at this time.
Ms. Parker interjected and said she remembered from their school board orientation that school boards have four objectives to accomplish--
1) hire a superintendent
2) pass a budget
3) create policies and procedures for the district
4) advocate on behalf of the schools in the district
Ms. Parker continued by saying she did not see where creating goals, and the like, were part of the four responsibilities of the school board. She then recalled being an alderman for the City of Germantown where everyone shared the same high expectations. She feels the same is true for the school district. She wants the board to maximize each student's potential but without placing a number on a kid. She does not want kids to be labeled as failures for not achieving a certain score. She admitted to making a 16 on the ACT but said, it did not prevent her from success in life. Ms. Parker concluded by saying, she wants the district's strategic plan on next week's agenda.
Mr. Dely said he, too, remembered orientation and that he remembered Tammy Mason saying that the most important function for the board was to pass a strategic plan for the district.
The meeting was adjourned by the chair, Ms. Fisher, at 6:55 pm.