The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) wants to start working on developing its strategic plan as soon as possible in order to help them deal with the tough budget decisions they will be facing this academic year.
At their October 26 Board meeting, the Board discussed in detail the four-phase workplan developed by the Gensler Group to help the District craft their new strategic plan by May of 2010. On November 5, five Board members voted to hire Gensler but two Board members abstained.
Board Vice-President Barry Snell abstained because he was “concerned about the selection process” of the Gensler Group. He wanted to see proposals from several consultants so he could compare them before making a choice. Board member Ben Allen also abstained but he did not state why he voted the way he did.
The consensus of the majority of the Board was summed up by Board member Jose Escarce when he stated the plan outlined by Gensler is “a plan that will work in this community. The quality of the strategic plan will depend on the quality” of the work that District puts into it and is not dependent on which the consultant is chosen.
Board member Kelly Pye expressed her support by stating the District “needs the infrastructure and we need it now.”
Board President Ralph Mechur liked the fact that Gensler’s offices are located in Santa Monica so they are familiar with the City’s issues and the fact that they are discounting their services to the District
The Board also received some input from the community before they made their decision. PTA Council President Shari Davis told the Board they should “make sure the educational aspect of our strategic plan is emphasized.” She also stressed the need to ensure that the “strategic planning process engages the diverse aspects of our community.” In order to ensure this there must be outreach that is “meaningful, inclusive and culturally diverse.”
The District’s Financial Oversight Committee Chair, Cynthia Torres, expressed concern as did Board member Snell that “Gensler was chosen based upon limited input.” She also noted that in order for the plan to be helpful “for budget purposes the strategic plan needs to identify clear priorities that align with stakeholder objectives that take into consideration budget and cost trade-offs and allow choices on resource allocation.”
Superintendent Tim Cuneo responded that the goal of the plan would be to develop “very clear priorities with costs associated with them.” However, an overarching goal has to be developing an educational vision for the District. He wants to see the process stretch our thinking, use key areas of research and incorporate using the latest technologies in our schools.
Board member Oscar De la Torre told his fellow Board members that it was important to assess the barriers that prevented the implementation of the District’s 2002 strategic plan. He doesn’t want the District “to build a house we can’t afford to live in.”