Oskaloosa USD 341 outlines goals for the future
by Dennis Sharkey
Goal setting is a priority for many successful groups but for USD 341 the foundation is already in place.
Oskaloosa school board members met with Dr. Doug Moeckel, associate executive director of leadership for the Kansas Association of School Boards, last week in a special meeting to develop a set of broad but unified goals and directions for Superintendent Jon Pfau. What they found out during the two hour process was that all seven members for the most part were already there.
Board members had different ideas when discussions broke down into groups, but the board’s long term vision seemed to cajole when results were revealed.
At the end of the discussion Moeckel remarked, “This is the easiest group I’ve ever worked with.”
During the process Moeckel told board member Jon Henry, “I may leave right now if you hit a home run,” in anticipation of Henry’s answer to a question.
Moeckel said the board’s goal was straight forward in the district’s mission statement, “Outstanding Personal Student Success.”
Moeckel was impressed during a part of the process when discussing the strengths of the district. Board member Denise Selbee-Koch said a strength of the district is empathy. She and others noted several times throughout the discussion that the district has a high and increasing population of low income family students.
Moeckel noted that part of personal student success is being able to walk in another person’s shoes.
The most robust discussions came in group breakouts where board members were asked to come up with the district’s weaknesses.
Although board members listed the district’s administration as one of the strengths, staff attitudes and getting everyone moving in the same direction was listed as a weakness. Consistency throughout the staff and in school initiatives was also listed.
Board members also believe that although administration is a strength, the workload expected was noted as being too much.
Board members were also asked to list what they believe to be the greatest threats to the district.
Moeckel told board members to look beyond budget issues because most districts are facing those issues. However, other issues that are tangible to the budget are threats such as consolidation.
Board members also said it is hard to ignore the declining enrollment problem the district has faced the last decade combined with the aforementioned increasing population of low income students. Pfau said No Child Left Behind regulations also pose a threat.
Safety was also listed as a top threat. Moeckel said any school district is kidding themselves if they think something tragic such as the Columbine High incident won’t happen at their school.
“It only takes one time,” Moeckel told board members. “It can happen any place or any time.”
Board members also see great opportunities for the district. Geographic location and technology were listed as positives for future growth. Board members believe the district has stayed ahead of the curve in keeping students skills up to date with technology. Board members also said there are opportunities for students.
“For a school our size, our kids can do a plethora of things,” board member Stephen Metzger said.
Board members also listed the district’s strong financial position as a strength and believe that can be leveraged.
They believe that the district is marketable and that should be a focus to grow the district’s enrollment which will grow funding.
“If you have a school that says ‘Welcome,’ that’s going to draw people in,” board member Daryl Chess said.
Selbee-Koch took one of the district’s weaknesses and spun it around into an opportunity for the district. Koch said studies show the best way to increase a person’s socioeconomic situation is education.
“Our biggest opportunity is to change their lives by teaching them,” Selbee-Koch said.
Moeckel noted that the board already has what it needs to move forward.
“You guys trust each other,” he said.
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