A special committee of 25 residents charged with rewriting the East Baton Rouge Parish school system’s six-year-old strategic plan are nearing the finish line five months after its work began.
The Committee for Educational Excellence had hoped to finish its work by August, but that timeline has slipped considerably.
“We’ve been a long time getting to this point,” said Dennis Blunt, co-chair of the committee. “Some of us longer than others.”
The parish School Board — six of its 11 members took office in January — made it a top priority to rewrite the school system’s strategic plan, first approved in 2005 and revised in 2008. The original idea was to have that process complete by late spring, but that quickly proved optimistic.
On Thursday, the committee received final reports from five of its six subcommittees, all given specific subject areas. The committee, however, only discussed two of those reports Thursday.
The only holdout is the “Academic Expectations” subcommittee led by accountant Slater McKay, who was not present, and Heather Moret, who was present.
Moret said the subcommittee wants to hear from a representative from the state Department of Education on changes made to academic expectations for schools before it reports.
“We feel strongly that we need to keep working,” she said.
All six subcommittees reported to the full committee in August, but the reports prompted extensive rewrites over two months.
Since August, Rudy Gomez with SSA Consultants has served as referee in the process. He led the rewrites, identifying duplications, things out of place, and making the writing more consistent. He also tried to identify things that were truly new or were just trying things the system was already doing.
He said he was “trying to do without doing mortal damage to the content and intent of what people had worked so hard to put together.”
“I take full blame for all edits and all changes,” Gomez said.
The five reports feature 19 “strategies” followed by 65 more specific underlying “tactics.”
These line items are meant to help the school system reach a “bold goal” chosen in June to become a top 10 school district in Louisiana by 2020.
The latest district performance scores, released earlier this month, showed East Baton Rouge Parish as 48th of 71 school districts in the state with a score of 86.2 — an improvement of three spots from the year before.
To have made it into the top 10 this year, the school system would have needed a district performance score of 109.9.
Several people in the audience suggested even more work needs to be done on the draft reports.
Liz Frischhertz, chief accountability for the school system, asked who would figure out the measure for strategies and goals.
“You don’t start with how you measure where you want to go,” Gomez responded. “You start with figuring out with where you want to go.”
“If you have it on here, you need to measure it, you need to set a target and then you need to make progress toward that target,” Frischhertz returned.
She noted a couple of tactics are hard to measure as currently written.
Cordell Haymon, an attorney and vice president of SGS Petroleum Service Corp., suggested the committee dig more deeply into its potential recommendations.
“Are we going to just punt along laundry lists to the School Board?” Haymon asked.
The Committee for Educational Excellence tentatively plans to meet again Tuesday. Once it recommends a proposed strategic plan, it will deliver that to the School Board.
School Board President Barbara Freiberg said she hopes the board will see that plan in time for its Nov. 17 meeting, and to hold forums for public input.
To follow the strategic plan rewrite, log on to http://news.ebrschools.org/explore.cfm/ebrstrategicplan/. The five draft subcommittee reports are expected to be posted Monday.