U-CF School Board hears proposal for strategic plan
● By J. Chambless
The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board.
By John Chambless
The long path toward a strategic plan process for the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District was the focus of a long discussion at the school board's April 18 meeting, which was held at Hillendale Elementary School.
The evening started with a packed house of family members and students who came to see certificates awarded to young participants in the LEGO Robotics competition by Hillendale principal Steve Dissinger. Family members were also present to see tributes to retiring teachers Daniel Cipollini and Janet Jennings from Patton Middle School, and to Unionville Elementary School nurse Cheryl Fulginiti, who is resigning at the end of the school year.
The bulk of the meeting was devoted to a presentation by Andy Hegedus, a representative of a strategic planning company called Demosophia. He outlined the company's methods and how they would proceed if they are granted a contract by the district to conduct a strategic plan, beginning this summer.
Board president Victor Dupuis said, “When we started this conversation two years ago, one of the questions that the board posed to itself was, 'What is it about districts that are considered to be the best in the nation? What are the tangible and intangible factors that separate Unionville-Chadds Ford from those districts? How can we get a plan of action to pursue those factors, to take us to another level as a district?'
“Is it realistic to think that we will go through this process and arrive at a conclusion that says, 'These are the places that your various stakeholders have identified as opportunities to make significant improvements as a district,” Dupuis said. “Can we get to that place through this process?”
Hegedus said he believed the process would work, explaining, “What we've found is that expertise is best leveraged in trying to find out how to move forward with specific issues. That's why we engage the community in this first part, designing where the leverage points are, and then expertise comes into play to figure out the best way to take those leverage points and move them forward.”
School district superintendent John Sanville explained, “We have a two-rail track going with regard to strategic planning. In June, there will be a discussion at the work session and a voting item at the June board meeting regarding awarding a contract to Demosophia. The parallel track to that is the line item funding that is in the current budget for the 2016-2017 school year that also requires board approval. We'll have opportunities for discussion next month and again in June. There's a point that Dr. Hegedus made, and that is, in order for the strategic plan process to be successful, the board has to own it. We have to all stand in the same place where we're comfortable moving forward.”
In a later discussion of the issue, board member Gregg Lindner said, “After hearing the presentation today, I would like to hear from one of the other companies which submitted proposals. I almost don't care which one. But I'd like to hear somebody else's point of view on a strategic plan process. My question is not about whether to do it, but my thought is that maybe we should get another approach to it.”
Board member Michael Rock said, “I don't remember us ever having a conversation about what we want to get out of a strategic plan. Before we vote on having somebody do a strategic planning exercise for us, I'd like the board to have a discussion of this set of issues. If we don't, I don't know what we're getting into. I didn't feel encouraged about what we're going to get out of this thing.”
Board member Robert Sage, who has been heading the strategic planning process, said, “Dr. Sanville and I listened to the other approaches and I think they are distinct. I would ask that if we all read the proposals, if that's not sufficient to understand the differences and the methods.”
Sanville added, “It's less than a month away, so I don't think we'll have time for somebody else to come in. We had five vendors that submitted responses, and all five have different procedures. The inclusive approach that Demosophia had was why we made that recommendation.”
Linder answered, “I read through all five proposals. I have purchased similar services, but for businesses. It's a very different process for education. I can see pros and cons in the different proposals, and it made a difference to me to hear what was said tonight, versus what I read.”
At this point, a contract to perform a strategic planning process has not been awarded, although Demosophia was judged to be the leading candidate, Sage said.
The district's budget process will be discussed at a public meeting scheduled May 2 at 7 p.m. in the Administrative Conference Room (750 Unionville Rd., Kennett Square). If necessary, more public meetings will be held May 3 and 4. The board is scheduled to vote on the the proposed final budget on May 16.
For updated information, visit www.ucfsd.org.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.