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Published: Wednesday, 10/19/2011

School board told to focus on goals, long and short term

Consultant offers tips for fast-paced world


TEMPERANCE -- Goals are important.

That's the message of Scott Morrell, a consultant with the Michigan Association of School Boards, who last week spoke about them to the Bedford Board of Education during a special meeting.

He advised board members and Superintendent Ted Magrum to set and examine their goals yearly and divide them into two sets: long term and short term.

More and more in Michigan public education, Mr. Morrell said, the short term is trumping the long term, with strategic planning extending no further than three to five years "because things are changing so fast in Lansing."

But this also is the case in the world at large, he noted, because knowledge became outdated so fast.

When queried by Mr. Morrell, the superintendent acknowledged a goal he would like to achieve: spending more time in school buildings associating with staff, students, and parents.

The consultant approved. "Maybe you need to be in the buildings once a week," he said. "Interact with staff and administrators in the buildings."

Mr. Morrell suggested that Mr. Magrum talk to parents as they waited in their vehicles at the close of the school day to pick up their kids. In such circumstances, the parents were a captive audience. He also recommended that the superintendent attend a student government meeting.

Mr. Morrell suggested the board adopt as a goal gaining a thorough understanding of the new state-mandated educational performance evaluations and reminded members that "evaluations are for the employees' growth."

He also recommended that the board and superintendent decide how much of the district's strategic plan they are following and what remains to be done.

He said that some of the plan has been implemented, such as the closing of a school. This was a reference to the former Smith Road Elementary, which was closed at the end of last school year as part of a plan to save $800,000 annually. The school's kindergartners through fourth graders were transferred to the district's four other elementaries, and the fifth and sixth graders to the junior high.

Mr. Morrell started his visit to the administration building with a video that emphasized the competitive nature of the global economy. He then underscored this message with some facts of his own, including that "India has more honor students than the U.S. has kids."

His PowerPoint presentation included the school district's mission statement: "Bedford Public Schools is committed to providing comprehensive educational opportunities that develop productive and responsible citizens in a changing world."

When it appeared onscreen, he noted that it made no mention of students.

"What does the vision statement mean?" he asked.

"To me, it means well-rounded education," answered board president Michael Smith.

"Are you student-centered?" Mr. Morrell asked, rhetorically. "We hope you are."

He went on to say that even when the strapped district was closing Smith Road Elementary, "You're still trying to do what is best for the students."

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