Dear supporters and correspondents,
I have placed on Tuesday’s Board agenda an item to withdraw TUSD’s current 65-page strategic plan and replace it with five simple goals. I believe that these goals better reflect, in far fewer words, the priorities of the current Board:
* Student achievement (by various measures);
* Enrollment growth (at schools recognized by the state, not pre-schools);
* Movement of spending out of administration and into instruction (as measured primarily by the administrative and instructional spending percentages calculated by the Auditor General);
* Reduction in teacher vacancies and turnover;
* Successful implementation of the Unitary Status Plan and strengthening of the case for release from court oversight.
I am not wedded to this exact list or phrasing. The Board may make adjustments, and whatever the Board adopts Tuesday will surely be revised and clarified over time. Please let me know if you have comments or suggested improvements.
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Foster has strongly criticized this proposal in a widely distributed email, so I write to explain the rationale and timing. First, the Board never even adopted the current strategic plan. The previous Board adopted only a vague summary of the plan, but the meeting minutes forgot that distinction and the summary morphed into the full plan. If the full plan had ever come to a vote, then I am sure that it would have been 3-2, and one of the presumed approving votes lost his seat in the election.
Second, the strategic plan became a campaign issue because its 65 pages of dense text seem to talk about everything except basic metrics such as enrollment and the balance between administrative and instructional spending. The plan makes only a few passing references to student achievement, which are vague and in the context of other goals. It never mentions school climate and almost completely ignores teacher recruitment and turnover. Amazingly, it never mentions the desegregation case or the Unitary Status Plan.
As we proceed into the superintendent search process, applicants need a reasonably clear and concise statement of the Board’s direction. The current strategic plan does not serve that role and is indeed misleading.
To defend the strategic plan, Foster has distributed a list of ten things that allegedly happened because of the plan, and ten things that would allegedly end without it. The list claims, for example, that the strategic plan increased enrollment, though in fact TUSD’s enrollment has declined continuously for more than ten years. Instead of debating the lists point-by-point, however, it suffices to observe that the strategic plan did not determine whether any specific project happened or will continue. The Board rarely even mentioned the strategic plan when making decisions.
Withdrawing the strategic plan is not intended as a slight on the citizens’ committee that developed it over a few weekends in 2014. Staff guided that committee and gave it an impossible task. The committee worked hard, and we learned things from the process. At this point, however, the plan is only a long – very long – misrepresentation of the current Board’s priorities.
Adopting a simpler list of basic goals would make those priorities clearer, to employees and to the community.
Thanks again for your interest in TUSD.
Also published on Medium.