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Somerset School Board adopts strategic plan

Dr. Mark Bezek

With every new school year comes changes in every school district. In Somerset, the 2017-2018 school year marks the first year of the district's recently adopted five-year strategic plan.

"It is a whole new mission as well as core values," district administrator Dr. Mark Bezek said. "We worked on this all of last year and it was a very diverse, demographically correct, core planning team that we had. We had students, which they haven't had in the past, parents, community members, business leaders and school employees making up this 35-member core planning team. That set the 50,000 foot vision, the mission, core values and also the strategies that we are using."

After the core planning team finished their part, the plan went to the school employees to develop the "results," — which Bezek said are synonymous with goals — the action plans, benefit analysis plans. Employees had three days at the end of last school year to give input into developing the 20-plus results. The results, according to Bezek, aren't completed until the core planning team says they are completed.

"It has been a phenomenal process. This is the first time with all the strategic planning I've done in the past where we were able to engage all of the employees and allow them all to have input. That came out really good and we really went out on a high note last spring," Bezek said.

According to the strategic plan, the Somerset School District's new mission is: Together we engage, educate, and empower all learners; bridging their passions to pathways to create successful futures and positively contribute to our local and global communities.

The new core values are as follows:

"We believe:

• Each and every person is capable of success.

• Each and every person is accepted and valued.

• In empowering all learners.

• Change is our opportunity for growth.

• Involved communities foster strong schools.

• Lifelong learning is essential for personal growth.

• In cultivating leaders."

The learner outcomes in the new strategic plan include:

• By 2022 all learners will, through self-discovery, continually identify their desired future, recognize and adapt to new opportunities, and create steps to attain their goals.

• By 2022 all learners will demonstrate global awareness and engage in diverse opportunities to positively impact their communities.

The strategic plan includes four broad strategy areas, such as leadership and growth, advance services and operations, educational delivery and community engagement.

"It is a really wide venue of challenges that we have for the next five years," Bezek said. "Each of the groups looked at those challenges and decide which ones we want to take on in our first year. We are going to recommend taking on seven of the challenges this year and then break it out to the staff."

The educational delivery strategy states the district "will improve educational delivery and learner connectedness to

schools and communities." The advanced services and operations strategy states the district "will improve services and facilities through innovative and proactive resource allocation." The engage community through partnerships strategy states the district " will improve services and facilities through innovative and proactive resource allocation. We will build and maintain a culture in which all community members understand, collaborate and contribute to accomplishing our mission." The cultivate growth and leadership strategy states the district "will seek, cultivate and develop leaders."

Within each of the four strategies are several plans of action which further outline the strategy, lays out the end result to be achieved and lists action steps the district wishes to accomplish over the five years of the plan. The action plans also outline the benefits and costs of each strategy, which range from benefits to the staff — such as access to mental health services — to the extra stress to teachers from being on additional committees.

"I'm excited and happy with the progress we've shown," Bezek said. "At a recent meeting, I had a bit of a flashback to when I was starting out at Elk River, which was a little below average in academics...and when we first started turning the corner that second or third year, these are some of the same conversations we were having back then. There is knowing, doing and being on the whole evolution scale of transformation. One bit is knowing what this plan is. Doing is trying to include some of those things. But being is when you live this. That is what we are trying to do."

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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