Shawnee Mission superintendent proposes strategic planning process that will set a new ‘north star’ for district

Superintendent Mike Fulton said the district will commence a major strategic planning initiative in February. File photo.

Saying the district must fundamentally reexamine the way it approaches education if it is to prepare today’s first graders for the world they’ll graduate into in 2030, first-year Superintendent Mike Fulton last week laid out a substantial strategic planning process that will kick off in early 2019.

Fulton said the process he envisioned, which was approved by the board on a unanimous vote Dec. 17, would establish a mission and vision for the district that would break the status quo.

“Done well, the results of this process will be clear direction with a north star that guides our work,” Fulton said. “While our current operation helps many children learn, it does not meet the needs of all children. An aspirational plan says that we believe all children can learn certain understandings and habits of mind that prepare them for their life success…We are looking to create a Shawnee Mission that builds on the past to create a better future for all of our children.”

A graphic showing the expected outcomes of the strategic planning process.

The first stage of the plan will be the formation of a 30-person steering committee that will include a broad array of stakeholders, from administrators to building-level staff to parents and students. Fulton said the administration was committed to ensuring the steering committee reflected the diversity of the community.

The steering committee will be made up of:

  • The superintendent
  • Two members of the board of education
  • Seven staff members (one from each of the five feeder areas, one elementary, one secondary)
  • Five parents (one from each feeder area)
  • Five students (one from each feeder area)
  • Five community members
  • Three building administrators (one elementary, one middle, one high)
  • Two at-large

Fulton will be selecting and announcing the steering committee members in January, and the group will begin its work in February.

The process will also include a number of opportunities for stakeholders to provide input, including a community-wide survey and community meetings, among other channels. The group will take that input and use it to deliver a series of action items that will be folded into a broader strategic plan. Fulton said the goal is to have the plan presented to the board for approval in June.

“This is not the superintendent’s plan, or for that matter the plan of any one individual,” Fulton said. “Instead, it is a collective plan built by this community for all Shawnee Mission students, present and future.”

Fulton proposed the expenditure of $77,000 — $30,500 for services provided by Thought Exchange and $46,500 for consulting and facilitation from The Cambrian Group — for the process. Some of the money will likely be provided through grants made from The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation.

Prior to the vote last week, SM West board member Laura Guy noted that the board had spoken at length about the idea for the process prior to it being brought forth for public discussion. She said she had been hesitant about the idea of investing so much time and resources on such a process because she had experienced lengthy planning processes with other organizations that yielded little change.

“The image of going for the north star, of going for something that’s different than what we’ve done before…that interests me and that excites me,” Guy said. “We don’t want all the voices to be the ones we hear from all the time. We really want to hear from those voices we often don’t hear from.”