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Matawan-Aberdeen surges ahead with strategic planning process

By KAYLA J. MARSH
Staff Writer

ABERDEEN – A strategic plan that will result in greater parent and community involvement and the development of a financial plan that will be aimed at supporting school operations and ensuring student success was presented to the Matawan-Aberdeen School District.

Kathy Winecoff, field service representative for the New Jersey School Boards Association who worked with the district’s board of education, presented the final strategic plan at the board’s June 27 meeting.

According to Winecoff, a strategic plan is typically a three- to five-year vision that establishes distinct goals for the district’s future.

She said the most important element of the strategic planning process is the commitment of the district and community members to ensure that the goals are realized.

“It is really important that this was a ground-up development of the strategic plan,” she said. “We started this journey a year ago and … got the ball rolling … and it [now becomes] the commitment of the board to ensure that the strategic plan becomes a document that is looked at and used daily to make decisions on what is going on here in your schools and the board is committed to carrying out the strategic plan…”

Winecoff said during the strategic planning process, which included a planning weekend that was held Feb. 26 and 27, stakeholders, including school administrators, teachers, parents, students and other community members worked to develop State of the Schools and State of the Community reports to use as guidelines when creating goals, objectives and a vision for the coming years.

“Yours were to the point and contained a tremendous amount of information that was really very beneficial,” Winecoff said. “At that weekend planning session, we came up with visions for your school district, we developed belief statements, we talked about strengths and challenges facing your school district and then we came up with goals and objectives.

“From there, we convened action plan committees, who then took the goals and the objectives and some of the strategies we came up with … and then put together the action plans.”

As part of the strategic planning process, stakeholders developed a set of beliefs for the school district.

“We covered five different areas,” Winecoff said. “One was, we believe children learn best when there is an environment that is conducive to learning, where this is safety and basic needs and [where] they’re nurtured and loved and respected…”

The second belief concerned the role of the parent, including being able to provide a supportive and nurturing environment that prepares students to be lifelong learners, being active participants in their child’s education and embracing their child’s uniqueness and inspiring them to exceed their potential.

“The role of the staff —the third belief— is to equip students with the knowledge and skills to ensure their future successes and maximize their potential, while meeting or exceeding academic standards,” Winecoff said. “To model and promote strong character and ethics and diversity to ensure students become valuable and contributing members of society and then to continue professional growth in order to adapt with the rapid changes of the 21st century and foster life-long learning.”

A fourth belief, which is the role that the community plays, according to Winecoff, is to supplement, support and partner with the district to achieve academic and personal growth, to have active participation in activities outside of the normal academic hours and activities as well as sharing their knowledge and expertise.

“Beliefs with regards to excellence in education includes [having] passionate educators who build confidence amongst all students, preparing students for success in an ever-changing world and creating well-rounded individuals that will have a positive impact on the world,” explained Winecoff about the fifth belief.

Winecoff said during the strategic planning process, stakeholders did affirm the district’s vision and mission statements, but made a slight alteration to reflect current academic standards.

“We really did have a nice cross-section of stakeholders who participated … [and] came out and gave up their time to ensure that the strategic plan was a success,” she said.

“The strategic plan really does provide a framework for annual goals for the board and for the district [and] these goals and objectives we came up with at our planning session will be the district goals for the next five years.”

Goals developed as part of the strategic plan include curriculum and instruction and improving achievement for all students; community engagement and increasing parent and community involvement in the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional schools; school climate and culture and promoting a positive, supportive and safe school climate that embraces kindness, diversity, individuality and respect for all; and finance and facilities and maintaining a balanced budget that will provide financial support for the school’s operations.

“It is amazing … no matter where you are coming from, whether it’s a teacher, whether it’s a parent, whether it’s a student, we all found that we have a lot more in common than what we had that was different and it really was that we wanted to provide the best that we can for the students,” Winecoff said. “It really was a good, productive [strategic planning process]. I think a lot of people did not know what to expect as we started out the planning process.”

Next steps in the process include the board adopting the plan at a future meeting, the school administration implementing the plan and then the community receiving updates on the progress towards completion of the strategic plan at future board meetings or via annual State of the Strategic Plan addresses.

“This was a year-long process for the school district … and there were countless hours, tremendous commitment from the community, from our district staff,” said Karen Jones, assistant superintendent of the district’s Curriculum and Instruction. “[They] were all such amazing participants and such great leaders on this project.”

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