FREEPORT — After receiving grants to develop a strategic plan for the district, Regional School Unit 5 is gathering information from students, staff and community on how to strengthen its schools.
The grant was provided by Great Schools Partnership and the Department of Education to all consolidated units. While the money could have been used to to pay staff for curriculum work or board member training, RSU 5 is using the money to create a three-year strategic plan.
The planning process began a month ago with a public forum to discuss needs for students, and to get community input about characteristics of prepared and successful graduates. The RSU board used the information from the community forum to create a three-year draft district strategic plan and draft targets.
“The board was honored by the positive remarks from the community about the staff and the high quality of work we do with students,” Superintendent Shannon Welsh said. “The affirmation of our work was very positive aspect of the forum.”
Welsh said the RSU board members were impressed by the future-oriented thinking of the community regarding educational opportunities for students in the areas of innovation, 21st century skills and financial efficiencies.
Between now and the next community forum to be held in November, Welsh said residents can complete an online survey to give the board more feedback. In addition to the survey, Welsh has been gathering information from faculty and students on the strategic planning draft. All of the information gathered will be sent to Great Schools Partnership to be revised. A final copy of the plan will be presented to the board on Nov. 4.
“This has been a great process with positive community and staff participation,” Welsh said.
After staff, students and community members review the plan, formal adoption of the full strategic plan is expected in December.
In other business, the RSU Board on Oct. 14 discussed Question 3, the referendum to repeal school consolidation, but did not adopt a position.
Welsh said the board members believe they are making good progress as a consolidated unit and would like to work with the Legislature to improve the law.
First, the board would support an opt-out clause for the consolidated units, so that towns that want to separate from their school districts can do so without penalties or repercussions. They also want to align board election dates. Welsh said Durham’s elections take place in April, Pownal residents vote in June and Freeport’s are in November.
Finally, the board would like to work to reduce or eliminate the cost of budget validation referendums.
“We believe the RSU 5 is a beneficial collaborative and that regardless of what happens with the consolidation referendum,” Welsh said, “we will continue to work together to benefit students and taxpayers.”