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In a June 7 memo to the School Board, District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton said the administration was recommending that the School Board award the strategic planning contract to Resolute Educational Solutions. At its June 7 meeting, the Finance Committee decided to recommend Resolute.
If approved by the School Board on June 14, Resolute will prepare a District Profile and a draft Five-Year Strategic Plan for the District.
While Dr. Horton and several Board members said teacher and community input were critical, there is not yet a plan on how to gather community input or how that input will be used in preparing the strategic plan.
Dr. Horton’s June 7 memo said the District published a request for proposals for the strategic planning contract. He said five firms responded to the RFP: Battelle for Kids; Four Points; HYA Associates; MGT Consulting; and Resolute Educational Solutions. Dr. Horton said the Cabinet Team considered the submissions and presentation on May 24 and June 1 and decided to recommend Resolute.
Resolute’s offices are located in Detroit. According to its proposal, Resolute President Dr. Phillip Caldwell will lead the Resolute team. Rajah E. Smart, VP of Strategy, will serve as the director of technical assistance and the project manager. Meaghan Polega, M.Ed., serves as a junior clinical research assistant on the project.
Resolute’s Proposed Plan
Dr. Caldwell told members of the Finance Committee that Resolute’s proposed work is “focused on basically two principles. One is equity and the other is quality management systems.
“Our process is very mission-centric, and so we are not coming in to give you an off-the-shelf product, we are very much a thought partner.” He said Resolute would analyze “the challenges that you’re trying to overcome and the things you say you want to get to. Our role is to help you improve in those areas along the lines of equity, promoting justice, impartiality and fairness for the kids and families you serve.” He said it is an “equity focused strategic planning process” and it consists of three phases.
Dr. Smart said phase one is “quality assurance facilitation,” phase two is “quality assurance management process” and phase three “quality assurance process review,” which includes four steps: “defining project scope and planning; specifying the baseline system of what it is we want to accomplish; building that actual product; and the delivery of that product. … And those products include an equity-driven strategic plan as well as a professional learning advisor.
“Possible deliverables in the system that we mentioned include an equity audit, where we examine many variables that could impact the strategic plan,” said Dr. Smart. “This is to discover new patterns and themes that support or act as barriers within this process. That is actually delivered to you as its own product. But we also include what is called the integrative reporting, productive analysis and tracking hosts.” Dr. Smart said this is a standardization of the data that can be used moving forward.
Dr. Caldwell displayed a screenshot of a report that Resolute had provided to another school district as an example. He said the report would include a District Profile.
“The interesting thing about the profile is there’s not new data that we’re trying to inundate your community with, we’re basically trying to galvanize the information that you already have that we can then lean on, to identify gaps and things like that that Dr. Smart suggested. And then when there’s a time or need to fill a gap, we might suggest something to the central office staff, something like a focus group or survey. But we do not recommend those things out the gate, those are more tools in our tool belt.”
Dr. Caldwell added that the example report provided key findings. “And so this is really what a plan looks like, having very robust but visionary goals to get to. And then below this, we would have various goals, objectives, and then the necessary resources to get to those …”
Dr. Caldwell summarized, “Your data profile is not an indictment on where you are. It’s just a way for us to better understand the context of where you are and where you want to go. So that’s the deliverable. And then the draft strategic plan is the second deliverable from this process that you get. And that’s roughly a six-month process, give or take.”
The proposal suggested Resolute would wrap up the process some time around December. He said the fee would be about $76,500.
Board member Joey Hailpern asked if an out-of-state firm could do as well as a firm based in Illinois.
LaTarsha Green, Deputy Superintendent of District 65, said Resolute had done work with another school district [Shaker Heights outside of Cleveland] that was a member of the Minority Student Achievement Network and with school districts that have made a commitment to equity, specifically racial equity. She added that Resolute “has been very attentive to the notion that we are undergoing a massive facility plan, student assignment, we have a District improvement plan that we are leveraging as well. So, it was also critical for us that we had someone who could understand our boots on the ground in the work that we we’re doing, and not overtax and inundate our community with over surveys, etc.”
Asked if beginning the project this summer would be advisable since it might be difficult to obtain information from the community and teachers during the summer months, Dr. Green said Resolute would be able to go through the District’s data and reports and begin archiving that information and filling in gaps by interviewing 12-month employees. She said any interviews or surveys of 10-month employees could be gathered later.
Mr. Hailpern said he was just looking at the strategic plan Resolute had prepared for Shaker Heights and a lot of that seemed to be reviewing “where the district has been.” He asked if the plan prepared for District 65 would include goals related to finances, and state where the District wanted or needed to be in five years related to finances and a roadmap showing year by year what the District needed to do to get there.
Dr. Caldwell said the Shaker Heights plan had specific goals and objectives that were written into the plan from Resolute’s work.
He added, “So the measures will be there based on what both your data suggests you want to get to and what your District decides to consider reasonable and equitable for the kids and families you serve.”
“This is a partnership,” added Dr. Smart. “So, the partnership will essentially dictate what the measures will look like, what the direction will look like, what the scope will look like for the future.”
Board President Anya Tanyavutti said she hoped the District would coordinate the gathering of information from the community for all the current efforts the District is undertaking so there would not be duplicative surveys or community forums. She said she felt the tolerance for families and the community to provide additional stakeholder input might be low, but added, “It’s also super critical that we have stakeholder input.”
She asked, “Is there a vision in mind for how we make sure that we’re efficient with how we’re asking our community and family stakeholders to engage with this process.” She said she envisioned that the strategic plan would “roll up” all the work being done by the District.
Dr. Horton said that is exactly what it does. He said, “The strategic plan is like the mecca of gathering all this data,” and that it was important to take all the other pieces into account when preparing the strategic plan. He said the District did not need to launch all the projects at the same time, but they could stagger the start times to make sure the District was able to gather community input and to have other pieces in place.
Mr. Hailpern said it is important “to make sure that we can speak to families in their native language, when possible, that we can invite families to places within their neighborhood to participate in focus groups, to also add a special education lens to this work. … And we have to have a financial component. We have to have the academic outcome component, but that’s across multiple lenses. And I want to make sure that we’re looking at that, and that this is the Board document, this strategic plan, that this is our touchstone for success over the next few years as an organization.”
Board member Sergio Hernandez said he understood Resolute prioritized equity, but asked if they really have experience working with bilingual or English as a Second Language students and if they really have experience engaging the community.
Dr. Caldwell said, “I want to make a point to say that we are not suggesting to you in this proposal, surveys and/or focus groups. … We are willing to look at you, and what information you have today, to use that information in an authentic way as a third lens to say, here are the outcomes linguistically, socioeconomically, racially, that you have said you want to achieve and if that’s the direction you want to go, we’ll point you in that direction.
“If there happens to be a gap, for example, when we release the data profile, we say we want to get some community feedback, that would really be the first touch point, if you really want to go back and get new information. A second touch point that we did … is that we do a public comment period when the information is released. So, then you’re not surveying anyone, you’re really just asking for their feedback or input on that material. I just want to let the Board know we’re not trying to inundate the community in any way with badgering them for new information that they have not already provided.”
The Finance Committee decided to recommend that the strategic planning contract to Resolute as the most qualified bidder be presented to the full Board for approval.
The qualifications and the proposals made by the other bidders were not presented or discussed at the Finance Committee meeting.