Superintendent unveils process to identify district's values

Marla StephensonWhat is your ideal Estacada student like?

Estacada School District Superintendent Marla Stephenson would like to know.

“We have more things to do than we have money to do them,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson has a rigorous strategic planning process in mind in order to identify what the community feels is most critical to producing a career or college ready student.

The process is designed to synthesize the community’s mission for the district and to identify the three to five most critical strategies to achieving it.

With this clarification of values, Stephenson said that it will be easier to develop policy and make funding decisions.

In addition, Stephenson said the development of the strategic plan will make it easier for the school board not to be buffeted by public whims of the moment.

Stephenson officially became the superintendent of the Estacada School District on July 1, succeeding controversial retiring Superintendent Howard Fetz.

Stephenson said that as the 2014-15 budget is already done, no major changes will be made from what was already planned for this school year.

“Right now, practically every dollar, as far as I can see, of the budget, we’re spending,” she said.

Of course, she said, education will still happen and the district will strive to improve graduation rates but this year will be devoted to synthesizing the larger goals for the district.

Clear guiding district values of the sort Stephenson hopes to identify with the strategic planning process are not currently in place, she implied.

Stephenson described the strategic planning process and proposed schedule she has in mind during the school board meeting on Aug. 12.

A strategic planning team of 20 to 30 people will be put together.

Stephenson said she wants this to be a large, diverse group made up of staff, parents, community members and city leaders. She wants people without kids in the district and other people that haven’t traditionally taken part in school activities to be part of the team.

Members of the strategic planning team should expect to devote three days this year to the process along with a presentation to the school board.

The time commitment is two days the following year.

The strategic planning team will meet in October and identify a new mission statement and beliefs for the district and three to five strategies for the district to focus on to accomplish the mission.

Next, Stephenson will put together action planning teams for each identified district strategy.

These teams, mostly made up of district staff, will develop steps and activities to implement the strategies and designate responsibility.

The action plans will then be presented to the larger strategic planning team to make sure they are in line with what the group had in mind.

The action planning teams dissolve after their plans are approved.

Once the strategic planning teams gives the actions plans a thumbs up, the package will be presented to the school board in March, according to Stephenson’s proposed timeline.

Stephenson said the package will have to be approved by the board before the 2015-16 budget process begins so the newly identified mission and strategies of the district can guide how money is spent.

After board approval, the schools will develop site plans to incorporate district strategies in their buildings.

The following fall, the schools will present their progress to the strategic planning team.

Stephenson alluded to this process during a speech at the Estacada Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Aug. 21.

She encouraged business leaders to take part in shaping the district’s future.

“Our charge is to make sure every child has the opportunity to achieve the American dream,” Stephenson told the Chamber members.

She went on to mention that approximately half of Estacada’s student body lives in poverty and many children are being raised by single moms.

“I am of the opinion that we need to reinvent public schools,” Stephenson said. “We have to understand where kids are coming from and meet them where they are.”

“I have a plan,” Stephenson stated to loud applause.

“If we can’t produce a student to be hired by any of you or be entrepreneurial like you, then we’re not doing our job,” she said.

If you would like to be part of the strategic planning process for the Estacada School District, contact Sabrina La Londe at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

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