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School district details strategy

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NORTH VERNON — Jennings County School Superintendent Terry Sargent called on residents to help find the best way for their children to get on board for a smooth ride into the future.

When he was hired 18 months ago, Sargent was surprised to find there was no long-term strategic plan in place for the school district.

While pushing for creation of a plan, he noted that a school system is a large and complex institution, much like a large ship.

“It’s difficult to turn a large ship when it is moving across the ocean,” he said. “It can take 10 miles just to turn the ship into another direction. It’s better to chart the course ahead of time, so the ship can move without changes and interruptions.”

Sargent thinks Jennings County schools are holding their own compared to others in the state.

“But we can do better,” he said. “And we need clear directions to move ahead efficiently into the future.”

In autumn 2011, the superintendent asked the Jennings County School Board for the approval to develop a long-term strategic plan.

He recruited consultant Susan Hintz of Transformation System Ltd. to help explain the process and benefits of a long-term strategic plan to the school board, which approved his proposal and set a goal of completion for the project by the end of 2012.

In January, Sargent invited community members to help develop the long-term strategic plan. More than 275 people helped set goals for schools.

Vicki McGuire, principal of Hayden Elementary School, was appointed as the internal strategic planning coordinator and worked closely with Sargent to establish the process of developing a five-to-10-year plan.

Three committees made up of residents from a variety of backgrounds were established.

The Core Planning Team would oversee the entire process of developing the strategic plan.

Action teams would conduct research, discuss objectives and and devise goals of the plan.

The Measurement Team was charged with the responsibility of measuring the progress and success of the objectives within the strategic plan as they were developed.

The final long-range strategic plan was presented to and approved by the school board on Nov. 26.

According to Sargent, more than 40,000 hours and 100 residents were involved in the committees that developed the plan.

“I did not do this,” the superintendent emphasized. “This plan is a community effort, not mine. This is about what we are as a school system and a community.”

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