Community input sets the course for Auburn schools

Public forum establishes new mission statement, educational objectives
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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More than 30 community members gave direction for Auburn Union School District’s long-term plan at a public forum in Auburn on Saturday, leaving the district’s board of trustees with groundwork on which to build.

Teachers, administrators, support staff and parents attended the event, which was hosted by Pacific Executive and Education Leadership Associates, a Hawaii-based professional coaching company.

Following a series of conceptual exercises to teach attendees about goals, feedback and accountability, host Glenn Harris explained the need for a new strategic plan for the district. Its current one being more than 15 years old, he said the district should develop a new plan every three to five years and reevaluate it every year to assess priorities and make curriculum and budget decisions.

“It structures the district’s budget. It forces transparency,” he said. “It enables accountability within the district, and it facilitates addressing constituent concerns.”

Board president Daniel Berlant said the board would take the public’s input and spend months formalizing the actual plan, but the input itself would form the basis of the document.

“This isn’t a complaining session, but this is definitely an idea brainstorming, helping us create that roadmap,” he said. “It will take a long time to see that final product – several months – but in the long run it’s going to give a lot of benefits.”

The group spent more than eight hours establishing a new vision statement, a mission statement, and more than two dozen strategic goals for the district. Many of these involved evaluating and improving the district’s English, math, science and other programs, updating its technology or ensuring a healthy learning environment.

Superintendent Michele Schuetz said the board would take all of those objectives and, without editing them, arrange them in a list according to priority.

“I think they did a lot of hard work … I think we heard some pretty clear directions of what’s important to them, and now the board will decide what to do with that,” she said. “The stakeholders are all part of our district, so we don’t want it to be just top-down. We want to hear from all of our stakeholders, what’s important to them, so that we can address everyone’s needs.”

Chris Haupt, a local business owner and parent of two students at E.V. Cain Charter Middle School, said he was pleasantly surprised by the district’s openness in the process, and the resulting level of community participation.

“From what I see of the process, I’m pretty encouraged that there’s a lot of buy-in across the district, across the different sites … They’re trying really hard to be on the same page,” he said. “If I hadn’t shown up or asked questions about what’s going on, I would probably be a little more cynical about (the process) … This is actually a collaborative process. I did not understand that before I came here.”

Also impressed by Harris and his program, teachers union president Karen Enghusen likened the experience to mingling with coworkers instead of working from home.

“I think it’s a really good thing,” she said. “For the district to move forward, a consensus is absolutely critical on what our specific goals are, and what actions we are going to take to achieve those goals … and this seems to be a wonderful new opportunity to get together and hear concerns, questions and possible answers.”