BRADENTON - At Tuesday's workshop, the Manatee School District's board listened to Director of Planning and Performance Management Robert Johnson describe the outcome of a December's Strategic Planning Meeting, held by the district to outline long-term goals such as improving academic outcomes strengthening financial stability.
Johnson told the board that his team and Superintendent Rick Mills "put forth two days of tremendous effort, and had a lot of valuable conversations."
Alluding to the district solely focusing on what it perceives as its biggest tasks when he spoke of the district's outlining of priorities, he said: "If we attempt to do everything, we will find ourselves doing nothing."
Those priorities include safety and security, "which goes directly to the safety of our students, buildings, and staff"; information technology and innovation, "... to enhance classroom instruction as well as business operations" and a pathway through college and pre-K readiness.
Johnson also talked about the district moving further toward "a diverse workforce that includes ethnic and sexual diversity ... we may need to look into having more women in central office and more men in the classroom," he said.
The district also gave out surveys in different community meetings, in schools and online "to understand the priorities of members of our community," said Johnson. He added that over 1,000 responses were received, which he called huge in terms of school district information gathered from the community, considering the "boringness" of the subject matter and the roughly 70 questions on the survey.
Not everyone was satisfied with all aspects of the survey. Board member David Miner complained that there was no way to determine whether the takers of the survey were residents of Manatee County, and thought that the sample size was too small to get a grasp of the average county resident's opinions on how the district should shape its future.
But Deputy Superintendent Don Hall essentially countered that the survey was not intended to be scientific: "The goal was simple: increase community feedback over what had historically been done (in the district)." Hall added that performing a "gold standard" survey would have involved hiring a research company, which would likely have cost the district a large sum of money.
In response to board member Barbara Harvey's inquiry about addressing student graduation statistics, Johnson said that the academic development part of the plan will be worked on before all others, and that an update would be given to the board in February.
Johnson advised that everything produced at the meeting, including recorded audio, is available on the public website.
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