When Joshua P. Starr took the reins of Montgomery County schools a year ago, he said he wouldn’t be revising the school system’s strategic plan.
Now he and the Montgomery County Board of Education are considering doing just that.
What Starr meant was, he wasn’t going to come in right away and rewrite the plan, school spokesman Dana Tofig said.
“He wanted to understand the issues facing the school system and figure out how to deal with the challenges before us,” Tofig said.
The plan outlines the strategies the school system will take to meet general goals such as “provide an effective instructional program.” It is now too detailed, board members said — the mission gets lost in the minutiae.
The five goals outlined in the plan are ensuring success for every student, providing an effective instructional program, strengthening productive partnerships for education, creating a positive work environment in a self-renewing organization and providing high-quality business services that are essential to the educational success of students.
Each goal has milestones and data points identified to help the school system realize the goals. For the instructional program goal, a milestone would be for all students to meet or exceed reading and math standards by the end of second grade. A data point would be a test, TerraNova 2, in second grade.
The school board’s strategic planning committee is discussing revising the plan, and the decision would come through the full board, Tofig said. The public will have a chance to weigh in.
The school system re-evaluates its strategic plan each year and makes small changes, but it has not had a major revision in about a decade, Tofig said.
The revisions would most likely be finalized this school year, although they could not take effect until the 2014-2015 school year because of timing, according to committee chair and board member Michael A. Durso (Dist. 5) of Silver Spring.
“Our efforts now are not to de-emphasize anything [within the plan], but to streamline major objectives so that we don’t have so many, but still try to keep the other priorities in the loop,” Durso said.
At a June 20 meeting, Starr warned the board that making changes comes with great risk.
“We know the way the organization was run in the past has led to better results than anyone out there,” he said.
The meeting was intended to focus on the board’s self-evaluation, but quickly turned into a conversation about how the members saw the revisions happening.
Board member Laura Berthiaume (Dist. 2) of Rockville said at the meeting that the transition between previous superintendent Jerry Weast and Starr provides an opportunity for the school board.
“I’m going to say this very bluntly,” she said. “Jerry [Weast]’s theory of action changed depending on the day, so you couldn’t do this. Now we have the opportunity to say, how do we want to do this.”
Berthiaume said that the school system’s current strategic plan is “not strategic, and not a plan.”
Board member Patricia O’Neill (Dist. 3) of Bethesda said there needs to be a zero-based budgeting approach to redefining the plan, and the process needs to start with the mission and vision.
Starr said the real challenge will be cascading the changes through the system’s employees.