District to reach out to community
October 28, 2014
FINN ROCK: “I’ve been trying to emphasize the idea of public relations and relationship building,” was the way Jim Thomas explained his work as the new McKenzie Schools superintendent. Speaking at last week’s meeting of the school board, he encouraged the district to again work on developing a strategic plan. Referring to past experiences with similar exercises, Thomas said, “By the time you’re done with it the local community is involved and it becomes like a living document. I’d like to throw it out just to get your input.”
Board member Alyssa Brownlee said she’d had some experience with the strategic planning process when she worked at Clark College. “Initially there was a lot of anticipation and resistance,” she recalled. “I myself was thinking about another thing to do, more papers to fill out. After we went through the process I actually found it was kind of fun. Having clear goals that we all worked on was really helpful,” she added.
Referring to the school’s previous strategic plan, board member Kathy Keable said that it has lain dormant in part because it had occurred at a “rather tumultuous time for the district.” Keable felt the study, conducted with the Planning, Public Policy and Management program at the University of Oregon, “Was a start but we didn’t keep it going and really look at it to make changes. It should be something that’s ours and not theirs.” (Click title to continue)
Thomas encouraged the board to move ahead and begin to schedule some work sessions. He also had some thoughts on other ways to reach out.
The superintendent said he’d like to see a district advisory committee come into being. “There are a lot of people out there and there are a lot of good ideas,” he said. “I’d like to get their feelings on some of the ideas they feel we should be working on and what they would like to see us do.”
Asked if that was something that would be part of the strategic plan, Thomas said he wanted to connect with people who might not normally come to meetings at the school. “The more we involve people in the various communities, the more support we’ll have and the more recognition we have when we’re doing things well.”
Thomas suggested beginning to hold monthly or maybe quarterly meetings out in the area’s community meeting spots, like restaurants. “We want to talk with people who won’t come to a school board meeting,” he said. “This is your turf. If you get on their turf they’re more likely to open up. I’d like to get all the input we can get to move forward.”
Brownlee said her only concern was that some people might “focus on the negative,” but also felt the meetings could help mend fences.
“Sometimes you have to agree to disagree so it doesn’t become a personal issue,” Thomas responded. “If we don’t always get our own way, that’s just part of the democratic process. You can’t take it personally.”
Not seeing a lot of support for the concept of a district advisory committee, Thomas said it might instead become a superintendent’s advisory committee. “I’d like to get all the input we can get to move forward,” he said.
Both approaches will be on the agenda next month, when the board meets on November 19th.
McKenzie River Reflections