Fairmont Area looks to draft strategic plan

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont Area School Board is in the process of developing a strategic plan meant to improve the learning environment and meet the needs of students.

To help craft the plan, Superintendent Joe Brown shared that an important part of the process includes determining current perceptions. To that end, surveys are going out that will ask questions of not only those directly involved in the schools, such as administration and faculty, but from parents and students, as well as the local community.

“We want business owners, parents, students and community members to give us their perception from the outside looking in,” Brown said. “We also want it to be anonymous, because we want people to be very open and honest with us, because we’re not a perfect school, and we do have things to work on.”

Survey questions will include assessments of the quality of the district overall, as well as topics such as the condition of buildings and grounds, the budget and subsequent use of funds, satisfaction with teachers and administration, and overall satisfaction.

“We also want to know if people think the schools are a safe place, and if the technology is right,” Brown said. “Then this information will come back on or before April 13, but it doesn’t come back to us. The information will go to two consultants, Jeff Olson, who is a retired superintendent from Saint Peter, and Harold Remme, a retired superintendent from New Ulm.”

Olson and Remme serve as consultants for the Minnesota School Boards Association and the South Central Service Cooperative, respectively.

The consultants will get all the questionnaire answers and summarize them, and toward the end of April, the district will host its first planning meeting. At that meeting, Brown will give a State of the District report and the consultants will present their summarization of the surveys, discussing the district’s strengths and opportunities, as well as any barriers that may be present.

“We just think it’s going to be a great eye-opener for all of us, because there’s not a person here who doesn’t think that education is not going to change drastically in the next five years,” said Brown, who cited the rise of new generations coming up and the increasing speed of the modern world.

“We’ll also be looking for 20 to 30 people that will serve on a committee that will meet three times, on May 2, May 16 and June 13,” Brown said.

The purpose of this Strategic Planning Committee will be to meet with the consultants and help develop the plan as far as assessing goals and objectives, and then clarifying how those will be met.

“In many strategic plans, you do it for five years, you get it done, put it in the binder, and it sits on the shelf and no one looks at it,” Brown said. “These people aren’t like that; they’ll come back the next year. So we get this done in June, and in June of 2018 they’ll be back on site and we’ll review the entire strategic plan.

“This plan will be updated every year, and the reason for that is because education is moving at such a rapid pace. Five years is almost half of a student’s [time in school], and that’s too long; you can’t wait five years anymore.”

The surveys that precede the plan development will be available on the district website, and Brown points out that hard copies will be made available to the public.

“In addition to sending this out electronically to all of our staff, students and parents, we’re also going to be distributing hard copies to all of the banks, and contacting the Ministerial Association to see if they’d be willing to have these available at the churches.”

Copies also will be made available at the Martin County Library and district office.

The first planning meeting will be 6-8 p.m. April 20 at the Fairmont Elementary School media center.