Our school district has not passed a school levy since 2005 and they seem to be itching to get one on the ballot. The school district is working to get the voters of Lakota ready for the levy discussion by proposing a new School Community Strategic Plan. This plan’s stated purpose is to “identify key strategic areas to prepare students for their future, to focus on the essential outcomes our work must achieve for the good of our students and the entire community, and to choose the best approaches that will invest our resources to produce the highest return,” according to Superintendent Mantia. Click here to read the plan.
In summary, the intention of the strategic plan is to educate kids, be a positive part of the community, and spend money wisely—all goals with which I agree, although the finished product does not address these goals.
The development of this strategic plan has taken several months and many hours of work. For the past year, Lakota has been having “community conversations.” This was the district’s way to hear from you, the residents of the Lakota School District, about your impressions about Lakota. From the website, “Through a series of community conversations, Lakota board members and administrators are listening to the residents of West Chester and Liberty Townships and asking for their help in shaping the future of education at Lakota.”
I attended one of the community conversations. It was a conversation about education, but at no time were residents asked or encouraged to talk about the issues that really face Lakota. It was a conversation about what the attendees hoped Lakota would be, without any acceptance of the district’s realities. The session I attended was mostly moms with children in the district who put some of the budgetary issues on the table but instead of allowing us to brainstorm possible solutions, we were facilitated (diverted) to another topic.
Per Superintendent Mantia, “These conversations are about deepening the relationship and building a partnership with residents, finding common ground on our core values around education, defining the purpose of education, and confronting and solving difficult issues in education. To do all that, we need to understand residents, build a better relationship between the school district and the community, and together define our values, purpose and goals. That starts with a different kind of conversation.”
The school district took detailed notes on the comments that were made during these conversations. The district paid an expert in creating conversation, Jeff Stec, executive director of Citizens for Civic Renewal, to gather the information and comments given by citizens, parents and business owners.
The input was compiled into a document called the Lakota School—Community Strategic Plan. This plan is up for debate at the next Lakota School Board meeting at 7pm on Monday, June 24, at the Lakota Central Office, 5572 Princeton Road in Liberty Township.
A group of West Chester Tea Party members met earlier this week to review the Strategic Plan document. There were several educators in the group and citizens who have developed government guidance documents in the past.
The overall evaluation by the group was not a positive one.
These are the stated “Values” of the Lakota Local School District according to the draft version of its new strategic plan.
- Students are the focus of all we do.
- Our guiding principles are integrity, respect, open communication, accountability, and continuous improvement.
- Students must be offered the opportunity to discover their talents and passions in order to learn and achieve at their highest level.
- An excellent public education is a community asset.
- Engaging our residents and businesses is essential to student, District and community success.
- Responsible and efficient use of resources is fundamental to sustaining our mission.”
Nowhere on this list of values, or anywhere in the document, are the important purposes for children going to school—to learn to read, to write, and to do math.
Nowhere on this list of values are the parents. The parents are the first, most important, and most incentivized teachers of children. They are the people that the school district serves in the role of educating their children. They should be front and center in what Lakota values.
Nowhere on this list or anywhere in the document is a reference to the teachers of Lakota. The teachers are the center piece of the district. If the district thinks “Students are the focus of all we do,” then they should show some value for the men and women who do the focusing.
Until these omissions are recognized, this document is worthless. The plan has a lot on how it will be responsible and receptive to the community and its money—that’s great. I am a huge believer in fiscal responsibility, but this sort of document is not the way to prove that to the community.
This analysis reveals that the “Strategic Plan” document is little more than words that sound good. A number of essential aspects of education management are not present. If this plan represents their mindset, then a new philosophy is called for.