Community group lends direction to Niles school board

Published 2:37 am Thursday, April 24, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- A new Strategic Plan suggesting and outlining some of Niles Community Schools needs and challenges for the next five years was recently submitted to the Niles School Board.
The plan, developed by what is called the District Strategic Planning Committee, outlines 11 critical issues, strategic goals and priorities the school district, within that five-year-period, should address to ensure a continuing quality education for its students.
Work on the strategic plan started in September last year and was approved by the committee January 14, 2003.
The committee consisted of 42 community members and leaders who were divided into seven different sub-committees. They met 15 times for a total of 45 hours.
Niles Community Schools Superintendent Doug Law said the plan will be beneficial to the school district.
He also said the plan helped quantify strengths and weaknesses in the school district.
In addition, the process of coming up with the plan forced everyone to step out of their comfort zones and really think what is wanted for the school district for the next five years, he said.
Some of the critical issues outlined in the plan include how does the school district ensure community and parent involvement in the school system and how can the school district obtain alternative funding sources.
Equally important is the prioritizing of current resources, organization of the school day and the school year, as well as grade structure.
The plan also stresses the importance of ensuring current, adequate technology is available for the students, as well as there being adequate facilities for current and modern educational programs.
Part of the plan, however, has already influenced decisions made by the school district this year, Law said.
Law said so far this year, school district representatives have visited seven different universities and interviewed around 250 candidates for school district teaching positions.
Four African American students and one hispanic student have indicated they will take positions in the school district starting next year, Law said.
Ron Sather, Niles Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer, said being part of the planning committee opened him up to the many activities going on in the school district, as well as making him aware of the many challenges the school system faces.
Bob Becksfort, a retired Niles certified public accountant, said being a member of the strategic planning committee made him realize what an excellent school program the school district currently has.
But it also made him realize the need to continually seek out improvements for the school system.
And even though the planning committee has submitted its plan, Law said the administration and board of education will meet with the committee each spring to evaluate the work that has been done to address some of the critical issues listed in the plan.
As time goes by, Law expects the strategic planning committee will bring in new community members as new issues arise.