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PRACTICAL PR

Worth the effort

Getting behind your district’s strategic plan By Melissa Messinger

Melissa Messinger is communicators coordinator for Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

2

I

n writing this article, I remem-

guiding short- and long-term work

Knowing that communication was

bered a line from a Dilber t

across the organization.

key, the board and administration

comic, “There’s no point in having

In order to create a strong

brought in a local consulting firm,

a strategy if you aren’t going to pre-

and effective plan, the team knew

M2 Communications, and tapped

tend to follow it.”

it would take deep engagement by

their communications coordinator

This seems a fitting represen-

internal and external stakeholders:

to develop a companion commu-

tation of how many organizations

teachers, administrators, support

nications plan.

approach strategic planning. It’s

staff, parents, community partners,

The District 65 Strategic Plan is

often a box to check off an obliga-

and residents. It couldn’t be done

grounded in seminal research con-

tory process leading to a long-winded

behind closed doors or during exec-

ducted at the University of Chicago

document left to collect dust on a

utive board sessions. Integral to the

Consortium on School Research,

shelf. And yet, it doesn’t have to be

development of the strategic plan

which identified five essential sup-

this way. With strong leadership by

was the district’s commitment to

ports for school improvement: effec-

the school board and superintendent,

listening to its stakeholders.

tive leaders, collaborative teachers,

a commitment to accountability, and

In order to gain the necessary

family and community engagement,

authentic community engagement, a

buy-in for success, the diverse voices

safe and supportive climate, and

strategic plan can serve as a roadmap

within the community had to feel

ambitious instruction. These became

to guide continuous improvement

vested in the process and outcomes.

priority areas within the strategic

across your school district.

From the onset, district leadership

plan, in addition to financial sus-

In the fall of 2014-2015, Evan-

approached the process in an inten-

tainability, which was critical for the

ston / Skok ie School District 65

tional and inclusive manner. As a

ability to deliver on goals. Through

launched a comprehensive stra-

result, more than 2,000 people par-

an open nomination process, five

tegic planning process to develop

ticipated.

priority-area working committees

a five-year plan (originally three-

While board members played

year) led by the district’s chief

active roles, their objectives were

strategy officer. With an expired

to provide oversight, encourage

plan and new leadership, the time

accountability in the long run, and

was right to engage in thinking and

reinforce the overarching com-

planning for the future. The board

mitment to community engage-

and newly-hired superintendent,

ment. A board member served as

Paul Goren, had a shared vision to

the liaison to the process to keep

develop a “living” document that

the board abreast of progress and

was both actionable and realistic,

to ensure planning was on track.

were assembled to develop goals, strategies, and milestones.

Columns are submitted by members of the Illinois Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association

THE ILLINOIS SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL / JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2017

The Illinois School Board Journal, January/February 2017  

A bimonthly magazine for public school board members and administrators highlighting issues in education.

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