A strong, community-driven process for the development of a school district strategic plan is critical towards increasing academic achievement for all students and building a strong network of stakeholder support for schools.
In October 2020, just a few months after I was appointed as the superintendent of the Montgomery Independent School District and my 100-day entry was near completion, my leadership team and I embarked on an ambitious journey to develop a new strategic plan for the district. After hundreds of meetings with district staff, parents and stakeholders during my time of entry, it was made clear to me that Montgomery ISD had tremendous support from the community, and many considered it a very good school district. And, like any organization, there were some identified areas for growth. But all-in-all, the community was pleased with the level of education students in the district had been receiving and often referred to the district’s vision statement – which is to be the “Premier School District in Texas” – as a point of pride. Yet, there were no written goals, benchmarks or targets for what the community considered “premier” as it relates to the vision of the district. For this reason, we felt that a fresh strategic plan was necessary to jumpstart our efforts to improve from “very good” to great and to address the growth areas identified.
As we launched our strategic planning process, our primary objectives were to ensure that, when the plan is complete, it would be authentically viewed as the community’s strategic plan and that it wouldn’t end up as just some fancy document that collects dust on a bookshelf. To that end, we coalesced a task force of over 300 individuals and divided the group into five task force committees – each focused on one of the district goals that had been recently adopted by the Board of Trustees: 1. Academic Achievement; 2. School Safety; 3. Finance and Operations; 4. Human Capital; and 5. Communications and Customer Service. The five task force committees were led by a member of my senior leadership team and a campus principal. Each committee was charged with developing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure growth in various areas under the five district goals, and putting together a list of district initiatives and strategies designed to engender success in each KPI.
Over the next several months, the five task forces would hold a number of meetings, conduct SWOT analyses for each board goal, study district data collected through a districtwide survey and research of district policies and practices, and take public input. In fact, over the course of the development of the plan, we held three public town hall meetings to allow for public input. Every individual who wanted to share their opinion or provide input during the development of the strategic plan was provided an opportunity. The Task Force ultimately developed 66 KPIs and 126 district initiatives and strategies to be included in the plan and in June 2021 the Board of Trustees formally endorsed the “Pathway to Premier” strategic plan in June 2020. The plan is a living and breathing document, meaning that our KPIs and targets will be adjusted based on the academic success of the district and results of annual customer service surveys. Each KPI and initiative and strategy resides on our district website, where the public can track the progress of the plan. As data relating to the KPIs is gathered, the plan is updated in real time. Additionally, during Board of Trustee meetings, updates on KPIs and initiatives and strategies under the strategic plan are provided so that the public can see the district’s progress and trustees have the opportunity to ask questions.
We are very proud of the process we utilized to develop Montgomery ISD’s strategic plan, and the direction and high level of transparency it is providing. The amount of public input and involvement during the development process prompted strong support for the plan and left many in the community feeling like the district was authentically listening to their ideas and opinions. A well developed and executed school district strategic plan will produce greater academic outcomes for all students and a successful school district strategic plan could not be possible without strong buy-in and support from the community.