From Fiddlehead Focus:Valley school boards agree to pursue strategic plan
By Contributed • August 29, 2016
ST. JOHN VALLEY -- The Madawaska School Department, MSAD 27 and MSAD 33 will enter a shared process of strategic planning over the upcoming year. The respective school boards have voted for the collaboration. While there is no specific end target in mind, shared programs and cooperation will be considered as the process moves forward.
Gisele Dionne, superintendent of the Madawaska School Department, said, “The St. John Valley is changing; a struggling economy and decreasing student enrollments throughout the Valley are a reality and confirm that our ongoing discussions between the three school departments, are critical now more than ever. We can no longer afford to be isolated entities, and as educational leaders, we must present viable options to our communities.”
Leading the strategic planning process will be Scott Voisine of Fort Kent. Voisine, who is employed as the dean of community education at the University of Maine at Fort Kent and whose work has provided him with the ability to act as an “informed outsider” to local schools, will be hired as an independent consultant outside of his role at UMFK to lead the process, along with a steering committee made up of representatives from all communities involved. Voisine has extensive experience with strategic planning, program development, school collaborations, and facilitation, according to a recent press release.
The process will take a full year and will include opportunities for a large number of educators, students, parents, community members, and other stakeholders to be involved and participate in shaping the plan.
“The end result will be a plan that will provide a pathway forward for school officials to work more collaboratively to provide learners in the St. John Valley with a high quality, cutting edge, and fiscally sustainable education in a manner that prioritizes the educational needs of learners while also addressing the needs of the communities involved,” said Voisine.
“The school board and I are open to exploring opportunities for collaboration among school systems in the St. John Valley,” said Fern Desjardins, MSAD 33 superintendent. “Such collaboration could improve our operational efficiencies and enhance our effectiveness in meeting student needs, thus improving student learning and achievement. Developing a plan under the guidance of Mr. Voisine, who will facilitate dialogue and communication among the Tri-District Steering Committee, may lead to the discovery of ways we can better support each other.”
The strategic planning process comes at a time of change for local schools and communities. Smaller populations, greater voter pressure to keep tax bills as low as possible, and the continued need to provide a dynamic, 21st-century education for learners are all considerations as local schools delve into the future.
“With great change comes great stress and the call to action becomes even louder," said Ben Sirois, MSAD 27 superintendent. “My hope is this plan will help the communities involved in taking bold, collaborative steps necessary to meet the needs of local learners in a new and exciting ways.”
Voisine said there will be numerous ways for the public to provide input and feedback throughout the entire planning process including news articles, information on school websites, social media and public meetings.