Willmar School Board plans to revisit strategic plan, set new goals
WILLMAR -- The Willmar School Board has given itself homework. After a two-hour retreat Monday evening, board members and Superintendent Jeff Holm set some goals for the coming year, such as updating the district's strategic plan. Sandy Gundlach ...
WILLMAR - The Willmar School Board has given itself homework.
After a two-hour retreat Monday evening, board members and Superintendent Jeff Holm set some goals for the coming year, such as updating the district’s strategic plan.
Sandy Gundlach of the Minnesota School Boards Association led the discussion. Gundlach was part of the team that led the search for a new superintendent last spring.
Board members spent the retreat discussing expectations and communication between board members and Holm, who joined the school district July 1.
Goal-setting “guides so much of what we do and what Jeff will do,” said board member Jackie Saulsbury.
Board members praised Holm for his efforts to meet one-on-one with board members in his first months in Willmar. His weekly updates for board members are also appreciated, said board member Jared Anez.
A strategic plan was developed in 2013, but “we didn’t do six-month checkins,” said board member Linda Mathiasen. She did not advocate scrapping the entire plan but said it could be revisited.
Gundlach said the board should probably be monitoring its plan every month.
Strategies for meeting the goals in the plan were not developed, either, Mathiasen said.
Holm said he thought the board was being a “little hard on yourselves.” One of the goals in the plan was to improve district facilities, and the district’s voters approved a $52.35 million building plan in May.
There are probably other portions of the plan that have been met, too, he said.
“We need to make it a more living, guiding document,” he said. A high priority should be maintaining the district’s financial viability, too, he said, something that was not in the plan developed two years ago.
Gundlach said some districts have included the goals of the state’s World’s Best Workforce law in their strategic plan and have used strategic plans to evaluate a superintendent’s performance.
The board could also adopt goals for the year as a way to support the superintendent in meeting his goals, Gundlach said.
Holm said he was in favor of the board revisiting the strategic plan. “I do think it’s going to be critical for us to have priorities really clear for us as a district. If we get clear priorities ... that’s helpful to me,” he said. “Otherwise, I’m flying blind.”
Gundlach provided Minnesota School Boards Association pamphlet about superintendent evaluations for the board to consider.
Building a culture of respect on the board and with staff and community was another topic of the meeting.
“I think that gets to the root of leadership,” Anez said.
Gundlach said it’s important that board members understand that they need to support a board decision, even if they voted against it. “It’s important for the rest of the district,” she said.
Board member Mike Reynolds, who has served nearly two decades on the board, said “it can sting at first” to lose in a split vote and then publicly support the winning side, but it eventually feels less personal.
“It comes with tenure on the board,” he said. “It is what it is.”