Armed with the results of the 2012 community survey conducted by researcher Pam Freeman of the KSU Research and Evaluation Bureau, College and Graduate School of Education and Department of Health and Human Services, the administration of Kent City Schools is moving forward with the process for its new strategic plan.
The plan will go into effect once the current strategic plan, in force from 2008-13, ends. Before then, Superintendent Dr. Joseph Giancola, administrators, school board members and other community members and leaders will take part in the process of formulating the plan, relying heavily on the results of the community survey.
That process will take one of its first major steps forward on Tuesday, when a group Giancola has deemed the "strategic steering committee" meets to hear a presentation from Freeman. They will break into smaller groups to address the seven different strategic areas that will be covered by the plan: the school safety climate for the district, curriculum, communication, facilities, finance, personnel and staff development and technology.
The 55 individuals who comprise the informal steering committee will segment into seven groups and discuss one of the seven areas with the intent of formulating 5-6 questions to be used in focus groups that will meet at the board office on weeknights during the weeks of Feb. 25 and March 4.
Giancola also predicts that Tuesday night's meeting will touch heavily on the issue of school safety, as its previous meeting took place before the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newton, Conn. that left 20 students and six staff members dead.
"Because we have not met since the tragic events in Newtown, I imagine that the steering committee will want to spend some time talking about school safety," Giancola said.
The district is implementing A.L.I.C.E, a program designed to train school staff members, teachers and students how to respond to an active-shooter incident, with the process scheduled to be completed by the end of the 2012-13 school year.
The subgroups at the meeting will seek to formulate questions that will target specific issues when administrators and district principals meet with focus groups beginning next month.
"These will be questions about what the community wants to see from the district within the next five years. They will be specific questions on specific issues," Giancola added.
There will be eight focus groups, each facilitated by a different administrator, with a principal in the room to observe and record "everything that is said," Giancola explained.
The focus groups will be: parents, teachers and staff, business community members, parents without a child in the district, parents of alumni, members of the Kent State community, senior citizens and students. Giancola will facilitate the senior citizen focus group and like the other seven groups, will have one question among the 5-6 asked that is specific to their demographic.
Administrators, board members and other district representatives will organize the focus groups through suggestions they come up with amongst themselves and other connections to the community. Each focus group will consist of 10-12 people, meeting for approximately one hour.
"These people will be asked specific questions to try to find out specific things," Giancola said. "Each administrator will attempt to get as much cross stratification as possible from the community and to get people from all geographic areas of the city. They might be asked questions such as, 'how do you feel about the rising cost of taxes of all kinds during your lifetime, including income tax, property tax and sales tax?' and for the students, if they are happy with the curriculum."
Although the upcoming 8.9-mill operating levy that will appear on the ballot in May is a major issue on the minds of everyone potentially affected by its success or failure, Giancola does not believe the levy will play a prominent role in the focus groups. Because the vote will take place well before the new strategic plan is finalized, he believes the issue's impact on the process will be relatively minor.