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SUMMARY OF JUNE 15, 2009 RETREAT DISCUSSION
Prepared by Moderator Glenn Koocher
Massachusetts Association of School Committees

An introductory presentation was made by Mr. Dieffenbach on the ongoing work of the Strategic Planning process. The process began three years ago and several critical steps have been completed. He has a Powerpoint which is available to the School Committee.

PREFACE OBSERVATIONS

The committee heard an explanation of the overall financial situation that confronts districts and casts a pall over everyone’s strategic plans and overall goals.

One person’s crisis is another person’s opportunity, as the current fiscal crisis looms over the most complex fiscal crisis in fifty years:
  • School finance, already complex to begin with, becomes even harder to grasp.
  • Revenues continue to fall, limiting local property taxes and state financial assistance.
  • Taxpayers are anxious as many lose jobs, investments, and confidence.
  • The federal “stimulus” program is slow starting and cumbersome in accessing dollars.
  • Not everyone gets a lot of money.
  • Adversaries of public schools, masquerading as “reformers” of the left and right are using public relations strategies to pursue their interests.
  • State bureaucrats strategize how to increase their power as they continue to operate as if there were no fiscal crisis. (Regulations increase as revenue falls).
  • Others plan on how to pounce upon schools.
  • Everyone tries to maintain their strengths.
  • Others try to privatize public schools.
WAYLAND’S KEY ISSUES FOR THE INFORMAL SESSION

1. How can we address differentiated instruction and the availability of gifted and talented programs, advanced placement courses, and other resources for high performing students without compromising services to all students?

A discussion addressed goals for the district and the intent to serve all students effectively. There is genuine diversity of views as to whether in-class and in-school services are prefereable to pull out or separate establishment of gifted and talented programs in the primary, elementary, and middle grades.

2. How can we balance the traditional, enrichment, electives, and co-curricular activities including sports and clubs to serve all students?

Similar to differentiated instruction, members want to preserve a broad curriculum to provide enrichment, services to the “whole child,” activities that will support lifetime learning and skills as well as enhance opportunities for college and employment.

3. How can we stabilize faculty at all levels, particularly central office administrative staff during a period of high turnover and retirements of key staff?

The district faces several high profile retirements over the next 1-3 years. Members discussed the employment market and viability of Wayland as an attractive district for the best candidates. They also weighed the merits of internal cultivation and promotion vs. casting a wide net for the strongest pool of candidates.

4. Where can we access additional revenue beyond the Stimulus?

The district is following actively the state’s financial situation and legislative budgeting process. Stakeholders are concerned about fees (no one really likes the idea of having fees), but it has had some success in managing programs independently (i.e., food services which are self-sufficient).

5. How can we work with the community to maintain trust, support and engagement of the town to strengthen the public schools in?

Wayland residents want value for their tax investments in schools. The district must continue to demonstrate high standards of fiscal accountability and transparency. Wayland is at an advantage because it is a high performing, well managed district with relatively low levels of criticism from the community.

OVERALL SUMMARY

Several strategies to pursue these issues that emerged from the discussion included:

  • Continuing and integrating within the strategic planning process focused in general or on specific strategies.
  • Using the superintendent and school administration and faculty as resources for information, research, and guidance.
  • Reaching out to other School Committees, superintendents and districts for examples of how they are handling various issues.
  • Hosting academic and programmatic presentations (targeted to subjects of interest) at School Committee meetings to explain and enlighten the decision and policy makers and the public.
  • Formal actions of the School Committee to set the direction, tone, or action steps.
  • Using the district web site to provide timely information, including meeting agendas, strategic plans, financial information, bulletins and updates as well as information on critical developments outside the district (i.e., state and federal legislation, etc.)
  • Using the MASC and NSBA resources for information.
  • Brainstorming of knowledgeable local stakeholders, short term and long range.
  • Formal involvement of parents and community members through local organizations (i.e., PTO/PTA, “friends” groups, etc.)
  • Recommendations from the Superintendent, Administrative Team, and Faculty.
  • Policy making to address problems or issues.
  • Maintaining a leadership cultivation and transition program to identify, mentor, hire/promote and retain staff at all levels.
  • Fiscal Policy/Financial Decisions including revenue generation.
  • Political and Public Advocacy at Town Hall, State House or Washington.
  • Public Outreach, inside and beyond Wayland.
  • Regional and collaborative strategies with other districts to identify best use of resources.
  • Using technology to improve access to information, services, and instructional services (i.e., “Virtual High School.”
  • Maximizing the public relations and public information opportunities available to Wayland and its ability to communicate externally and within the school district.
It was noted that there are several special constituencies, issues, and processes that will be impacted by short and long term strategies:
  • Using the budget process to execute planning and pursue goals.
  • Using “stimulus” funding effectively over the next two years.
  • Collective bargaining to achieve goals.
  • Deployment or Redeployment of staff.
  • Facilities usage/configuration.
  • Parents who seek empowerment and involvement
  • Community support
Members were encouraged to enlist in the MASC listserv in order to post on line inquiries and to receive information from their colleagues.

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