South Orange-Maplewood District to Unveil Strategic Plan Nov. 21

by The Village Green
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After more than a year of meetings, focus groups, research and discussion, the South Orange-Maplewood School District Strategic Plan will be unveiled a Board of Education meeting on Nov. 21.

The meeting will be held at the Columbia High School Auditorium, 17 Parker Avenue, Maplewood, at 7 p.m. and is anticipated to last about one hour. See the full agenda here.

The meeting will be live streamed on the South Orange – Maplewood Cares About Schools Facebook page

The plan will also be explained to the public at an Education Summit on December 6 and at three other forums designed to reach all members of the community, before going before the Board of Ed for approval at the Board’s December meeting.

Last year, the South Orange-Maplewood School District began the process of “developing a Strategic Plan to serve as a blueprint to guide everything” it does.

The process kicked off with an Education Summit attended by more than 1,500 community members in November 2015. Then, in February, the Board of Education adopted a Strategic Direction document to guide the process as it broke into nine Action Planning teams of 12 members each.

After five months of work, the Action Planning teams were to present their work to the Strategic Direction committee in September, according to a plan outlined by Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Ramos last February.

Next, the Full Strategic Plan (Strategic Direction and Completed Action Plans) was scheduled to be presented to the Board of Education for Review in October with the Strategic Plan to be shared with community — also in October 2016. Finally, the Strategic Plan was to be submitted to the Board of Education for approval at its November meeting.

However, the District  announced over the summer that it was pushing back the timeline by one month, to give the action planning teams time to reconvene after the summer and complete their work. “We are on schedule for this revised timeline,” wrote District spokeswoman Suzanne Turner in an email to Village Green on Friday.

At the October 17 Board of Education meeting, Dr. Ramos updated the community on the timelines. The Superintendent reported that the full Strategic Plan, including Action Plans, will be presented to the Board at its November meeting, with a presentation to the community at a second Education Summit on December 6. The Strategic Plan will go back to the Board in December for approval.

District spokeswoman Suzanne Turner provided further details on Friday as follows:

  • A second November Board meeting took place Wednesday, Nov. 16 and served as the regular business meeting of the Board.
  • The Strategic Plan will be the only topic on the agenda for the regularly scheduled board meeting on Nov. 21.
  • Education Summit 2 will take place on Dec. 6.
  • The District will also hold three forums for people who cannot attend the Summit (one for staff, one daytime for community, one evening for community).
  • The Board will be asked to adopt the full plan — including both the Strategic Direction and the action plans — at their December 19 meeting, and to authorize administration to begin prioritizing the action plans and develop an implementation schedule.

In addition, the Strategic Plan facilitators released an update last week recapping the the work of the plan (see below).

Here’s updated Strategic Planning schedule sent to Village Green by the district on October 28:

Download (DOCX, 34KB)

The letter from the Strategic Plan facilitators:

SOMSD Moves Strategically

The citizens, students and school officials of the South Orange Maplewood School District have undertaken a serious and substantial effort over the last and current school years to strategically analyze and plan for high quality education in their system. They decided to adopt a planning model that encourages wide input and participation while adhering to guidelines that focus their efforts on those areas that have strategic value for students to receive a high quality education.

The model that SOMSD has implemented is as follows:

·         The development of a Strategic Direction that includes Mission, Values, Parameters, Performance Statements and Strategies.

·         Based on these Elements of a Strategic Direction, the further defining of each Strategy through a series of Action Plans that include concrete results called Deliverables for every one of the Action Plans.

·         Review of all Action Plans to insure fidelity with the Strategic Direction.

In less than a year, more than 2,000 participants have engaged in a process of serious discussion, review and analysis. Adhering to strict guidelines for developing concrete Deliverables that can be traced back to the broad ideals and comments from the November 2015 Summit, this work is a testament to the tireless efforts of the staff and citizens who participated. In choosing to make decisions strategically, SOMSD is operating similarly to many of the most successful organizations in the world. It is difficult to be continually faced with a myriad of problems in operating a complex business such as a school district. Detailed and comprehensive planning has a significant impact on making the best decision and not simply the one that gets you to the next day!

Your efforts to bring together a variety of invested constituents to engage in this well defined strategic process is laudable. You have chosen to work cooperatively in aspiring to better position your school system to prepare ALL students for a future yet to be imagined!

Rocco Rainone Jr. and Marilyn Gounaris

Strategic Planning Facilitators

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