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District gives first peek at priorities

Original post made on Mar 18, 2008

The school district's current Strategic Plan, often called a catch-all too broad to be helpful, will soon be history. In its place should be a specific document with clear priorities, ready by May, according to Jerel Davis of McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm helping the district.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 18, 2008, 3:18 PM

Comments (3)

Posted by Slightly Skeptical, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 18, 2008 at 4:12 pm

OK - this proves a couple of things.

1) McKinsey's Palo Alto office has a lot of excess capacity and is looking for something to do with the time on its hands

2) The majority of people on the McKinsey case team will be single kids fresh out of college and/or business school - unlikely from a demographic point of view to know anything about the needs and desires of a school district and the needs of parents and family issues.

3) Palo Alto parents are too vocal and demanding. But we bring it on ourselves by asking every parent to work in the classroom beginning in kindergarden. There are times when I wish my kids went to a high school where the parents stayed away - except for the occasional sports game or concert. Way too much parent involvement, interference, participation, expectations.....school is for kids, not for parents.

4) McKinsey will create a well-crafted presentation that makes everyone in the room shake their head in agreement on the issues, and make broad generalizations about how to address the underlying problems (note the trial balloon 'rules of engagement' buzz word in the above article). Not much will change as a result of the study, other than that a few board meetings will be occupied by listening to this presentation...

5) All this said, the education is still wonderful - mostly due to the dedication of teachers and motivated students. I just wish the parents would chill out, and the administrators would not pander to parents who create unnecessary noise.....


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 18, 2008 at 4:25 pm

That sounds about right, SS, though not sure about the utilization of the McK office - pro bono work often is a recruiting/retention thing that you just need to budget for.

Not sure I see any problems there. In the end, if Skelly is any good, this is HIS plan more than the Board's, the town's, or McK's. If Skelly can get a plan he likes and get people to generally nod their heads, then mission accomplished.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 18, 2008 at 4:47 pm

Having worked for one of McKinsey's competitors and having been the client of another of them, what I read sounds like a pretty typical report from a project team "lead" about what is surfacing in initial interviews with various stakeholders in "Client PAUSD."

Since I think there have been some serious flaws in prior strategic planning exercises, I think the District is fortunate to have a resource available that has boatloads of experience helping people with the "subject matter expertise" understand how to better harness that into a meaningful strategic plan that may actually pass serious muster and used going forward. No guarantees at this point that such will be the case, but I think the chances are dramatically improved as a result of having a top flight firm versed in this 'process" stuff contibuting to the effort.

A couple of "Slightly Skeptical's" comments ironically exemplify one of the findings/concerns that was reported to the board last night around community input.

I think the Weekly's choice of headline could have been better. At this stage, the priorities are not even close to being fleshed out, and I think to interpret this update as indicating what they may be is highly premature. A number of things mentioned really don't fit the bill of becoming a priority in any case, to suggest that they are or could be is very inapt.

I don't know if PAUSD will turn out to be a good client or not for McKinsey. That really depends on the people leading the effort from the client side. They are getting some very capable resources provided to them who will work very hard and thoughtfully and produce some meaningful work if their client is strong and provides useful concrete direction. Since I have had experience on both sides of such strategic client engagements, I can safely say that a strong client will make huge strides with the likes of McKinsey compared to doing without such a resource. A client of a lessor fabric will fare poorly with or without as assist from McKinsey, Bain, or any of the others that provide this type of consulting work.


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