A special committee was assembled on March 25 and 26 to come up with a strategic plan for the future of Canfield Local Schools. They met in intense sessions and didn't quit until they agreed on what the plan should look like.
"I was a part of strategic planning at a former school district," said Superintendent Alex Geordan. "When we say this is a public school system, it is for the public. Our stakeholders are our kids and it takes the whole community to educate them."
The committee that worked on this plan was assembled in advance. It included two school board members, the superintendent, treasurer and business manager from the Board of Education. From the staff were teachers and classified employees from each school building who also lived in Canfield. Three juniors and three seniors were included from the list of student leaders.
"Those kids added so much in the two days," Geordan said. "They saw the passion the community has for their success in life."
The committee was topped off with members of the business community, PTO, ministerial, and residents. They spent eight hours per day at St. Michael's family center to come up with a strategic plan for the school district's future.
"In all, we had 46 people with half coming from outside the school system," Geordan said.
The committee worked in groups over the two days. Geordan said everyone was so dedicated that when they broke for lunch, they kept right on working while they ate.
At the end of the second day, the results were made known. The first thing the group came up with was the vision: "We will meet each student's individual learning needs, leading to a top 10 ranking in the State of Ohio by 2017."
"The question came up on how to measure that," Geordan said.
He said the indicators will tell all. How the students do on the ACT, combined with the state's annual report card on the district and the number of graduating seniors that need remediation in college will offer that indicator.
The next step was to come up with a mission statement. The final draft was: "As a community, we educate, motivate, and innovate for individual lifelong success."
"The common word in our vision and in our mission statement is individual," Geordan said.
His focus was on given each student what he or she needs to be the best they can be. If the student is high performing, the committee felt they should be pushed more and given challenges to keep them focused on constant improvement. If they are special needs students, then they too need to be motivated, but on their own level.
To accomplish the vision and move in the direction of the mission statement, the committee came up with six goals to move the district in the right direction.
Goal one was to develop a comprehensive facilities plan for the district that includes both academic and athletic. It basically meant looking at the presenting buildings and complexes and seeing if there was a way to improve them to better serve the students and community.
Goal two was to develop a district-wide plan to improve community engagement and communication. "We've already begun some of that," Geordan said.
Goal three involved going after funding to support the needs of the district. That would include the road the district is currently on by being frugal with taxpayer money. Geordan said back in July the district was looking at a $1.5 million deficit at the end of this school year. By adjusting and belt tightening, that deficit was narrowed down to the neighborhood of $600,000 and Geordan said it could even go lower than that when all is said and done.
Goal four involved adjusting staffing to support and maximize the teaching and learning process. If course offerings become outdated, then staffing needs to be adjusted to meet the demands of the current curriculum.
Goal five is to develop and implement a teaching and learning plan by December of this year, Geordan said this simply means giving the staff what they need to be successful when it comes to professional development.
The final goal is to develop and implement a comprehensive technology plan by October of this year.
"Our kids will soon be taking all their assessments online," he said. "We'll need a plan to be ready for that."
Geordan said the goals will help keep a focus on the direction the district wants to go.
"We now have a rudder on our ship," he said. "Those [goals] are our what's," he said. "The next step is the how's. How we reach our goals. They will be the most challenging."
He said that challenge will be for everyone, not just one group, and that is why the committee was so diverse in its make up. Geordan said everyone in Canfield has a stake in the future of the school district and only through moving together in the same direction can the goals be fulfilled and the vision attained.
While the strategic plan is complete, Geordan said it is still subject to change. It will be up to the school board to adopt it at a future meeting. Geordan expects it to come before the board in late spring or early summer.
"It's all about what is best for Canfield, Ohio," he said. "This strategic plan is not for the state, nor is it for Mahoning County. It is just for us."