The Organizational Planning Division is also responsible for facilitating the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency Comprehensive Plan. The AEA Accreditation Process which has been initiated by the Iowa Department of Education has given the agency an opportunity to change the manner in which we do our planning.
We have been willing to customize our planning process for whatever community groups are identified.
One of the most important aspects of successful planning is the need to have open dialogue among those who will be impacted by a plan. There are times when discussions like this can lead to specific actions that can be taken and there are other times when such discussions are simply a way to get the issues and perspectives out in the open without having people angry with each other.
We are prepared to spend time with districts to sort out potential or real problems by providing facilitation of structured discussions which can help move a district or building to the next level in their process.
Buildings as well as districts are finding that they want to have a more visual statement of what their building or district will be like in three to five years. The process for doing this takes about two hours initially with some follow-up time and results in a one or two page narrative which describes the school or district that will be in place in the future.
We are willing to work with buildings and districts to set up this process and tailor it to their needs.
National Issues Forum
These forums offer opportunities for people to get together and talk about important issues in the community. People go to forums to talk about tough national issues and try to figure out what they think should be done. Three or four alternative courses of action are delineated and the groups go over the arguments for and against each choice. People are not expected to agree on the course of action, but the purpose is to find the goals and interests they do share. Some topics available for community discussion are:
- "Our Nation's Kids: Is Something Wrong?"
- "When the Mind and Body Start to Fail: What are the Choices?"
- "Public Schools: Is There a Way to Fix Them?"
- "Land Use Conflict: When City and Country Clash."
- "Kids Who Commit Crimes: What Should be Done About Juvenile Violence?"
Eleven of our districts are involved in a full systemic planning process which includes the development of a Guiding Vision made up of beliefs, mission, behaviors and student learning goals. The Guiding Vision is created by the Board of Directors in a half day retreat. That activity is preceded by an environmental scan of the community and staff which develops an list of major educational needs. Following those two activities, a representative community group spends a half day to a day developing long range goals.
Most districts are aligning this process with the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan. In most cases the community group which develops long range goals is the school improvement advisory committee. There is a good deal of flexibility in how a district wants to proceed with their systemic planning process and we are working with districts in developing their process so that it is in line with the Comprehensive School Improvement Planning Process.