Eyeing the district’s future
Planning for the future and being proactive are two goals of the Baldwin School Board.
On Monday night, the school board took a step toward reaching those goals with a two-hour strategic planning session. Representatives from Greenbush, an education service center located near Girard, came to the meeting to help the board begin its planning.
After hashing out more than 40 ideas for a plan, some of which were repeated, the board seemed pleased with its first session.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” said Blaine Cone, board vice president who took Board President Alison Bauer’s place Monday night.
Every board member wasn’t happy with the direction it was headed. After the board created its list of ideas for the plan, Board Member Scott Lauridsen didn’t feel the prioritized list accurately represented the direction the board wanted to go.
Chris Christman, one of the Greenbush representatives, tried to help Lauridsen by asking what he wanted the Baldwin district to be in the near future.
“Do you want to be the best in Kansas?” he asked. “Do you want Baldwin City schools to be the benchmark for excellence in educational quality in the state of Kansas?”
“Well, yeah,” Lauridsen said. “Who wouldn’t sign up for that? We would like to be a benchmark. That benchmark may be different for everybody. The benchmark may be that we have the best staff development or retention plan, but it could also be that, for the size of district we are, we offer a differentiated set of curriculum and activity opportunities second to none.”
This exchange sparked a small debate between the board members and the Greenbush representatives Monday night. Board Member Ande Parks tried to simplify what Lauridsen was trying to say.
“I think what Scott is trying to say is that we want to break the mold a little bit,” Parks said. “I didn’t put student achievement on my list, because we’re doing that and it’s kind of a given for us right now. So I think we want to break the mold a bit and maybe develop a curriculum that doesn’t just focus on standardized testing.
“We want somebody to look at us and say, ‘Wow, there is no other district that size in the state of Kansas that is able to do that one particular thing,’” he said.
Cone even added her opinion, because the list of ideas were simplified on the lists of paper, instead of written out in full description.
“I think it depends on how you word the questions to the focus groups,” Cone said. “I think that’s what we are talking about, because that word is not there yet. It’s in shorthand.”
Once the list of plan ideas is finalized, the Greenbush representatives will visit with several focus groups within the district and city for an entire day. Those groups could include teachers, students, administrators, community members and business owners.
After everything was cleared up, Lauridsen was happy with the direction of the ideas. He even said he just wanted to make sure the board was heading the focus groups in the way it wanted.
“I just don’t want to set this train off the tracks right here and make it so we’re unable to stop it,” Lauridsen said. “Then by the time we have community input, we’ve kind of missed it. We don’t want that.”
The majority of the meeting was spent creating a list of priorities for a future plan. The list included many topics, ranging from staff retention to efficiency of resources to conserving energy and going green.
After creating the entire list, each board member and Supt. Paul Dorathy chose their top five priorities. After the voting was done, the top four priorities were listed. They were technology improvements, staff recruitment and retention, facilities and student achievement.
Sensing that four ideas weren’t enough, the board expanded the list to six. The other two were a well-rounded education and communication.
“I was like you, because I was not satisfied until we extended to six,” Parks said to Lauridsen. “I feel like within the context of a well-rounded education we could cover a lot of things.”
At the end of the meeting, the Greenbush representatives said they would e-mail Dorathy the finalized list and questions to be approved by the board. They also commended the school board for its forward thinking.
“I’ll tell you that we’ve worked with a lot of schools and a lot of them have not had that kind of farsightedness to plan ahead,” said Rob Winter, Greenbush representative and superintendent of Salina schools. “They didn’t look at some of these other things. So my hat is off to you. If you look at those six, that’s pretty forward thinking.”