After meeting with consultants last week, the District 97 school board decided on a strategic plan steering committee with more community representation than the consultants had originally proposed but not enough to satisfy one member of the school board.

MGT, the Austin, Texas-based firm Dist. 97 has hired to conduct its first strategic plan since 1989, had originally recommended a steering committee of 10 or 11 members with only one representative from the community. But at a special meeting last Wednesday the school board made clear to their consultants that one community member was not nearly enough.

So the school board and the consultants agreed that the steering committee will have five community members on a committee of 13 or 14 people.

That solution seemed to satisfy four of the five school board members who attended the special meeting. But Sharon Patchak-Layman felt that was still not enough community representation.

“I don’t support this configuration,” said Patchak-Layman. “I think there has to be an equal number of community to staff.”

However, the two MGT consultants argued it was very important to have significant staff representation on the steering committee.

“We strongly feel that this is the district’s strategic plan,” consultant Suzanne Bradford told the board. “It’s the plan you want your employees to implement. It’s important for employees to be heavily represented. You really have to have your employees participate and buy in.”

The compromise informally adopted?#34;no vote was necessary according to board President Carolyn Newberry Schwartz?#34;was to have a steering committee composed of three central office personnel, three or four teachers, one principal, one District 200 (OPRF) employee, and five community members.

Peter Barber, who suggested this composition, argued it was time to get started and stop worrying about the exact composition.

“I think we need to get off the dime and get this thing moving,” said Barber.

Barber emphasized that the steering committee had no power of its own to adopt anything and that the school board would have the final say.

Newberry Schwartz was satisfied with the compromise. “I do think the board is trying to be inclusive,” said Newberry Schwartz.

Participation on the steering committee will require a huge time commitment of approximately 72 to 80 hours between January and May the consultants said.

The district already has applications from about 30 individuals who have indicated an interest in serving on the committee. The consultants told the board it was important to look for individuals who will enter the process with open minds and can look at the big picture in the district. The consultants advised the board not to select those who would be likely to serve merely as advocates for a particular cause or issue.

There will be many other opportunities for members of the public to participate in the strategic planning process, said the consultants, who plan on convening a number of focus groups as part of the planning process and to create action teams which will work on particular areas of the strategic plan.

Those interested in participating in the strategic planning process should contact Gail Cranz at district headquarters or e-mail their interest to

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