News

Two appointed to help with strategic plan

Baten Caswell, Townsend will help Skelly choose consultant for plan

There must be a good plan behind the Strategic Plan, school board members agreed at a Thursday leadership meeting.

To help Superintendent Kevin Skelly review proposals from outside firms about how to conduct the drafting of the important document, the board appointed Camille Townsend and Melissa Baten Caswell.

The three will hear presentations about different processes and decide which will best suit the school district.

The Strategic Plan is often called a "road map of priorities" and is intended to help guide board decisions.

At a board meeting in early December, Skelly presented a timeline to complete a 12-year plan open to periodic revision by mid-March.

But board members struggled to define how to gather community input and go about writing the document.

Spending three days in a crowded room trying to share concerns is not an ideal method, Board member Melissa Baten Caswell said Thursday, referencing the last strategic-planning process.

She pushed for Skelly to review a panel of consultants, pick a "tried-and-true" process that worked for other districts and then stick with it.

But the board should not leave all oversight about the process to Skelly, Board member Camille Townsend said.

"I feel responsible for it," she said, noting it was a document to guide the board.

Yet bringing all proposals before the board would be a lengthy process and slow things down, Baten Caswell said.

But letting only a select few board members decide was undesirable, Townsend said.

"I don't feel comfortable deferring to different board members," she said.

The group ultimately appointed Townsend and Baten Caswell as a subcommittee to assist Skelly.

"I would trust the work of two other board members," Board member Barb Mitchell said.

The rest of the all-day meeting was spent discussing behavioral protocols such as how to respond to parent complaints and how to work together as a team, Board President Dana Tom said.

"I feel very positive that this group is going to work well together," Baten Caswell said.

Comments

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2007 at 7:44 pm

Do I hear undertones of contention?

Maybe this Board does have a good cross section of ideals and perhaps we will move forward on this one.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 22, 2007 at 6:15 pm

Having been involved in numerous strategic planning exercises, I detect the typical, normal discussion about approach and desired results that comes at the start of a strategic planning effort.

Having an outside consultant is a very good idea for this endeavor. There are disciplines to doing strategic plans effectively, and those who are the "content" experts (PAUSD Board and Administrators) will benefit greatly from someone who can put together a process that is designed for this particular group at this particular time.

While there are certain common elements to any strategic plan and its process, they are not "cookie cutter" in approach going in, and once they get under way, the issues and ideas that surface are entirely unique to the matters at hand. An outside consultant can be dispassionate about the content, but can help the thinking along as things develop.

And a good strategic planning process requires a great deal of pre-planning before the actual strategic planning begins. It sounds like Kevin, Camille and Melissa are on point for that, and they will have their hands full working with the consultant to "set the stage" for what comes next.

There have been opinions, including mine, about the rigor that went into the last strategic plan, and whether it really was a strategic plan, or something other than that. This report suggests that the District leadership is keen to develop this time a strategic plan that truly fits that defintion.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 23, 2007 at 5:55 pm

Hmmm, I'm with Parent on this one, there sounds like there's a certain amount of jockeying for control. Baten Caswell who's been on the board for a handful of meetings is already taking a strong stance on how things should be done. And it's in conflict with Townsend--who, of course, was running last year's meetings on *that* topic.


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2007 at 6:59 pm

Fun to watch, since Skelly is pretty up front about wanting to drive things, to the point of shooting his mouth off from time to time. Managing the Board is a big part of his job, we'll see how he does.


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