Letter: What happened with schools' strategic plan?

EastBayRI.com ·

To the editor:

What happened?

Sheesh. Thirty-one people, countless meetings, multiple surveys, a couple of PHD’s, four pages of paper and several thousands of dollars later and this is the result? I’m dumbstruck. 

So, what went well with the strategic plan? Not much other than a “consultant” was hired, some data was collected and a draft of the plan was released to the public. Oh and the “31”; that was a number better suited for a backyard pool party for a game of Marco Polo.

What else should have occurred?

• A S.W.O.T. analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) should have been conducted. If it was, this too should be released to the public. The previous strategic plan had one.

• The “Potential Measures” (ostensibly goals) were replete with “Increase this or that”, with absolutely zero specifics on how much said measure was to increase/decrease. Yes, some things in education need to decrease as well. Student achievement and the annual budget are two areas that the school committee could focus on with greater specificity. Outcomes (measures) should be clear, specific and measurable. Most other strategic plans refer to these as KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).

• Time frames for the measures to be implemented were non-existent

• Funding sources/allocation for measures were non-existent. The school committee should request advice from the budget forecast committee to assist it in developing a five-year financial plan.

• Person(s) responsible for implementing the measures were non-existent.

In short, there was an extraordinary lack of clarity, specificity and accountability. To quote another strategic planning consultant, “Keeping your definition of winning a secret – either on purpose or by default – does not support a culture of accountability.” The school committee is once again hiding behind the veil. To paraphrase Ms. Cassar in her recent letter, “the difficult issues seem to have been avoided having been wall-papered over with eduspeak.”

The mortal Peter Drucker, once said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” I would add, measurement ensures accountability! Consider our primary competitor’s, East Greenwich School Committee five-year strategic plan. It contains five strategic priorities; here is an excerpt from the fifth one on financial accountability:

EGSD Strategic Priorities and Objectives #5: “MAXIMIZE our resources to provide the highest-quality public education as efficiently as possible and in a manner that is accountable and transparent to the taxpayers of East Greenwich.” Operative words are accountable and transparent.

“Every ‘entity’ wants a culture of accountability. The difference is that winning organizations don’t just make accountability a priority; they make it a way of life! One of the biggest disconnects in accountability management involves assigning resources and responsibilities when you don’t have clarity around the outcome,” says another plan consultant. Charlie Sheen couldn’t even say, “You’re winning!” to this school committee. 

The Barrington School Committee would do well to tighten their strategic plan so that Key Performance Indicators are clear, specific and measurable; include time frames for implementation and most importantly, include the cost for each. There is virtually no accountability and little transparency in this document. 

Don’t our students, parents, teachers and all taxpayers deserve better than this after last year’s school committee budget debacle? 

Scott Fuller