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Are you considering creating a living document updated annually to identify priorities, optimize resource allocations, focus the governance and leadership teams, align organizational goals, and use data and decision science to ensure the goals are shared, sound and reachable? Are you looking for an outside facilitator to lead the work so that you can be free to contribute as a thought partner? If you are, you're smart, because the process is best facilitated by a person/team whose lens is not biased by institutional isomorphism, a constraining force that limits possibilities. Read below before deciding whether you lead the process yourself, or choose to bring in an outside facilitator like me as your process partner. The foundation of my approach is grounded in theory but realized in practice. My end goal is to help leaders create the conditions for systemic coherence.
"Dr. Mucerino has separated himself from all of the Superintendents who have come before him in my 29 years as a member of the School Board. He identified our needs. He worked with the entire Board and all stakeholder groups to develop a plan to meet those needs. Then he operationalized the plan. All of which he did effortlessly and seemingly within the blink of an eye."
Ken Bell, Board President
Duarte Unified School District
I am an experienced facilitator who has led schools and school districts through the strategic planning process from start to finish as either a Principal, Assistant Superintendent, or Superintendent, providing coaching, support, feedback, and stakeholder and school board progress updates throughout the process. Click here or on the image at the bottom of the page for an example of a district's plan driven by a North Star vision to desegregate its schools and raise the expectations for all students and staff. Also at the bottom of the page is an example of a branding strategy and an example of a sizzle reel to promote the plan's content.
I recommend all districts build their own plans from within, but with a process partner to create the separation necessary for untethered visioning. That's where I come in as an experienced practitioner who highly values collaboration and ownership. Without a plan districts lack focus. Without a focus districts lack direction. And without direction districts don't know where they are going, as exemplified by the exchange below from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat “it doesn’t matter.”
To learn more about strategic planning for schools and school districts, find the following series of essays on the topic here:
Is Your LCAP a Compliance Document
Don't Confuse Strategic Planning with Strategic Management
Urgency vs. Capacity Building. Plan on it.
It's LCAP Season. Plan on Doing it Right This Time Around
Whose Vision Is It Anyway?
As a member of the educational leadership faculty at CSUF, I have taught a doctoral level course in forecasting and strategic planning for many years. My goal to build capacity for strategic planning starts with working closely with district staff to coach key district leaders and school boards throughout the process. This recent plan plan was informed by over 50,000 points of data, including historical data reported in Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), an ethnography given past and present demographic and enrollment data, and feedback collected by the Claremont Graduate School evaluation team generated from over 4,200 survey responses as well as from 50 focus group sessions with over 500 people representing every stakeholder group internal and external to our district, including all students, parents, and staff as well as community members, city officials, business leaders, and alumni. Even families that chose to either abandon the district at one point or another, or that chose never to attend at all participated in the survey. The plan includes seven strategies that address the needs and interests of students and their families, staff, and other stakeholder groups. Each strategy includes a desired outcome, a series of action items, a timeline, and the most critical element: a cost v. benefit analysis.
Strategic planning is not an event. It's a process structured around a series of guided working sessions with strategic partners using strategic planning tools (such as Decision Analysis, Situational Appraisal, Potential Problem Analysis, and Problem Analysis), with the help of an expert to generate solutions and a strategic action plan that is specific to the current conditions and circumstances the district finds themselves in (i.e. declining enrollment, growth, student achievement gaps, staffing shortages, fiscal health, etc...). Many districts have strategic plans, but few have living plans that drive decision-making and promote and support the district's brand.
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