By Kevin Kelley

Westlake

The Westlake City Schools’ new strategic plan sets broad goals for the public school district, but offers no specifics on how to configure its elementary schools if a long-anticipated facilities plan is implemented.

The implementation of the goals, formally unveiled at the Westlake Board of Education’s April 11 meeting, will be left to teams of district teachers and administrators.

“The next step in the process will be for teachers, staff and administrators to use the outline as a foundation for a strategic plan that they will complete and implement,” Superintendent Geoff Palmer said.

Goals were established in five areas – finance; curriculum and technology; facilities; communications and partnerships; and culture and environment.

A committee of more than 50 people met six times during the past three months to hear in-depth presentations on educational issues. At the meetings, members divided into small groups to further discuss educational needs and trends.

According to the eight-page strategic plan report, proper funding was the first resource need identified by the committee.

“Recognizing that financial support must come from the community, the committee also stated they must be educated on the state’s funding formula and the district’s financial state to do so,” the report stated. “The participants called for continued financial transparency from the treasurer’s office. While the need for funds was universally accepted, there was considerable discussion about what was the most urgent need: permanent improvement, bond/facility, or operating.”

The committee called for the establishment of a “dedicated local revenue stream for building, maintaining, and upgrading facilities and operating the district.” However, no specifics as to ballot timing or millage amount were given in the report, nor did it indicate how to overcome a streak of three failed levy attempts. The report did call for addressing the concerns of the community “head-on.”

On the issue of facilities, the report cited the “need for larger, improved, modern facilities at the elementary level.” However, it did not offer any specifics on how many elementary schools to build or where, or when a bond issue to fund new facilities might be placed before voters.

Palmer indicated during his March 16 state of the schools report that the strategic planning committee slightly favored a two-location elementary school plan. Currently the district operates four elementary schools. The district plans to conduct a phone survey of residents’ opinions on district facilities later this month.

Under the heading “Culture and Environment,” the report called for collaborative and productive relationships among parents, teachers and the administration.

“To best serve students, we must understand what drives their individual performance, and provide them with the enrichment they need – which also includes appropriate downtime for lunch and recess,” the report stated. “Students need an inclusive community environment that embraces all types of diversity, from ethnicity, income, family makeup, and learning style.”

Committee members Jane Peer, associate director of market development at the global accounting firm of KPMG, said a positive change in an organization’s culture can help people achieve their best work. She recounted how, through a change of culture at her company, KPMG went from a culture of high pressure and management through intimidation to one that encourages collaboration and inspiration. Employee turnover dropped significantly, while satisfaction has skyrocketed.

“A strong culture results in high trust,” she said. “A strong culture produced results. … There is study after study that links culture and environment initiatives to high performance, increased engagement, innovation, productivity and improving trust.”

School board President Carol Winter described the strategic plan as “very forward-thinking,” adding that she’s confident it will move the district to where it needs to be in the next five years.

“I’m very excited to be part of the board that gets to implement it,” Winter said.

The school board will vote on adoption of the plan at its April 25 meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the district’s offices at Parkside School, 24525 Hilliard Blvd.

Westlake City Schools’ Strategic Plan Goals

Finance – Maintain a constant and appropriate long-term funding stream to achieve the educational mission of the Westlake City Schools.

Curriculum & Technology – Create a systematic framework to develop an all-inclusive learning environment aimed at educating the whole child which empowers every Westlake student to positively and purposefully contribute to society and to strive for excellence.

Facilities – Have a 21st-century learning environment where form follows flexible function and accommodates safety, curriculum and technology.

Communication & Community Partnerships – Build a sense of pride, confidence and trust through communication and partnerships.

Culture & Environment – Build a culture of inclusion, collaboration, open-mindedness, respect and inspiration, so every student, faculty and community member feels welcomed and inspired to do their very best.

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