Public help sought to work on new school strategic plan

100 citizens sought for sessions Feb. 3-5

Back in the 1960s, the term “strategic planning” was coined in the business world as a process by which the managers of businesses and corporations could formally establish the goals and priorities of their companies, and then create a list of tactics and strategies that the managers and employees would use in order to achieve those goals.

The creation of “strategic plans” eventually became the new model for how businesses across the country laid the basic foundation for their work, and it became so successful that eventually other groups and organizations began operating in a similar fashion.

For many years, Forest Lake Area Schools has been guided by strategic plans that have been periodically changed and updated, and they have enabled the district to better meet the needs of the community it serves. The most recent plan was developed in 2006.

This strategic plan was to last for five years, with updates and adjustments occurring annually through a committee made up mostly of community members.

School Version

“Strategic planning in the public sector is similar to the same kind of planning used in the private sector – both for small businesses and in the corporate world,” Forest Lake Area Schools Superintendent Linda Madsen explained. “But obviously, there are a few key differences.”

The expiration of the most recent five-year plan now means that, starting next month, the school district will begin the strategic planning process all over again.

“Five years is a good period of time for one strategic plan to run its course,” said Madsen, who – as director of teaching and learning – was part of the group that worked on the current strategic plan. “Things change quickly, and we need to make sure that we have a plan that is up-to-date and reflects the current needs and demands of our students and our communities.”

In order to develop the new plan, an expanded, formalized process has been developed. It involves gaining additional input and ideas from a wide range of individuals throughout the community through discussions.

Parents, students, teachers, administrators, local officials, community leaders, business owners, members of the clergy, and a wide range of other individuals from the community are being invited to talk about how the school district operates and to come up with ideas on ways to improve it.

The first step for the district will be to bring together about 100 members of the community at large in what is termed an “Educational Summit.”

This will take place on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 3–4 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Tanners Brook, 5810 N. 190th St., and participants are asked to attend one of the two sessions.

The meeting will be led by John Messelt, a professional independent facilitator who will serve as a non-biased moderator for the discussion.

Participants there will discuss the work of the district and answer questions such as: “What is going well and should be continued; what should be reviewed for possible changes; what is well understood by the community; what is misunderstood by the community; what is unknown to the community?”

“This is mostly a brainstorming and ‘ideas’ session where we all – and particularly those people who do not work for the school district – will help come up with the ideas that will be put into our strategic plan,” Madsen said.

“We’re looking for a very honest and up front conversation about how we’re doing,” Madsen said. “We want the discussion to be civil and respectful, of course, but this is a real chance for everyone to help us plan out our work and our priorities.”

Next Steps

Following the Educational Summit, another group of about 30 individuals from the community will set upon the task of beginning the planning process. Those meetings will take place in late March.

Then in April, the district will start the formation of action teams and the training of action team leaders. The action teams will then meet in April and May and will be assigned the task of coming up with specific results statements and suggested activities that would later be presented to the larger committee.

More than 150 people are expected to be involved in this work.

The next part of the process will begin in June, as the full committee is scheduled to meet with action team leaders and hear their reports on the work done by their action teams. Much of the creation of the strategic plan will be conducted at this meeting.

Their final plan will be presented at the July school board meeting.

The process ends in mid-August, as a community coalition is created to determine and develop a specific plan for the organizations involved in this process and in the community.

“I really feel that the strategic planning process is a very positive opportunity for the school district, as well as all of the communities that comprise the school district,” Madsen said.

“It allows us to create a better roadmap by which to guide us, and each person who works in our district has the chance to see how their specific job and their work fit in with the overall goals of the district.”

Anyone interested in participating in the Educational Summit on either Feb. 3 or 4, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., should visit the school district website at for more information, or call Dr. Madsen at 651-982-8103.