The District 65 School Board will hold its strategic planning meeting on Saturday morning, Feb. 23. As a prelude to the meeting, on Feb. 11 the administration will present to the Board a report that summarizes where the District stands in meeting the goals of the five-year strategic plan it adopted in June 2002.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy said the 2002 strategic plan was a “management plan,” which “has provided a framework for all of our efforts.” He said the District has accomplished 90 to 95 percent of what was contemplated in that plan, which is now in its final year.

At the Board’s Jan. 8 meeting, two subcommittees, one composed of Bonnie Lockhart and Jerome Summers, the other, of Katie Bailey and Keith Terry, outlined ways the Board could approach the strategic planning process. Both subcommittees agreed that the current strategic plan should be the jumping-off point.

Ms. Lockhart said, “It’s important to look at what’s already in place. We need to know where the District is in relation to the current strategic plan. It’s really hard to move forward with a strategic plan without knowing the efforts and place where we’re at with the current strategic plan.”

Mr. Terry said, “We should assess where we are for two reasons. First, perhaps we fall short of a goal, and we can pick up and keep going. Second, in the event we achieved it, that doesn’t mean that we can’t start from that place to continue to make it better.”

Unlike the 2002 plan, which contained goals and listed detailed strategies and timetables to implement each goal, it appears that this time the Board will describe in broad-brush terms how they want the District to look in five years and then let the administration fill in how to get there.

“What we [the administration] want you guys to say to us is how you want to see the school system and the community over the next five years,” Dr. Murphy told members of the Board. “And then what we’ll do is say to you, ‘Okay, we see that too, and these are the strategies we want to use to get there.’”

Board president Mary Erickson said, “I understand exactly what Dr. Murphy is saying. We give him the vision; we give him the direction; and then the administration says this is how you get there.”

Ms. Bailey said that Board members, with the help of a facilitator, could paint a picture of where they want the District to be in five years in specific areas, such a special education, financial health, curriculum and instruction, programs such as the Two-Way Immersion program and the African-centered curriculum, and capital improvement.

Members of both subcommittees emphasized the need for obtaining community input. Ms. Lockhart said, “This has to be an all-inclusive process.” She suggested a number of town-hall meetings. Ms. Bailey agreed, “The community needs to be involved.” She suggested the Board obtain community input through internet surveys and other ways.

The Board reached a consensus that at the Feb. 23 meeting, they will reaffirm the District’s mission and value statements, and then begin the process of describing in broad terms where they want the District to be in specific areas in five to ten years. The Board will take public comment during the meeting.

Dr. Murphy said, “If the conversation is about possibilities, then this can be an invigorating experience for the Board and for our administrators and our teachers.”

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...