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DECATUR — A new strategic plan will guide the Decatur School District through the next five years on its quest to become a "destination district," following unanimous approval by all seven school board members Tuesday. 

After the plan was presented, Superintendent Paul Fregeau told board members and other meeting attendees that the plan would bring real change to the district. 

"This has to look different five years from now, or we’ve wasted everybody’s time," Fregeau said, adding that the district is not currently a "destination" for families.

"For that to occur, we have to look different. ... We have to change. We have to do better by our kids."

The plan includes five major goals, each with several action items attached. The main goals are:

  • Ensure unique, innovative learning experiences for all students;
  • Ensure a student-focused environment that expands learning beyond the traditional expectations to engage students;
  • Establish a support network that will identify and address students' physical, social/emotional and mental health needs to allow each student to reach their full potential;
  • Attract and retain talented and invested staff by ensuring they feel valued and supported;
  • Create and foster mutually beneficial relationships throughout the community

Volunteers and community members took part in developing the plan along with members of the district. The school board also worked with Lindsey Gunn of The Cambrian Group consultants, with whom Fregeau had worked in his previous district in North Kansas City, Mo.

The last strategic plan was put in place in 2007 and was meant to last until 2012. Fregeau, who began work on July 1, urged the board to make a new strategic plan a top priority.

Read the document:

Speaking before the strategic plan presentation, Carla Brinkoetter, owner and managing broker of real-estate firm Brinkoetter and Associates, addressed the board with some thoughts about why she said families coming into Decatur might look outside of the Decatur school district, or why families in Decatur might move outside of the city to other districts. 

Brinkoetter acknowledged there is a perception that some real estate agents steer incoming families outside of Decatur.

She said her agents aren't encouraged to do so, but that some families often will ask to be taken to Mount Zion or Maroa-Forsyth because they want to be part of those districts' athletic programs. 

"I felt a strong urge to share with the board that athletics seem to be a major draw for a lot of families," Brinkoetter said. "I don't know where this fits into District 61's plans moving forward, but I do think it needs to be something that is taken into consideration, just from an outsider looking in."

Fregeau said he anticipates creating programs and initiatives that are "21st Century," new things that the district is not yet doing, and those will lead to making Decatur a destination district.

"What those look like, we'll have to see," he said. "Like on Strategy 3, serving kids' social and emotional needs, how do we partner with community and region to provide those services? Is it in-house? Do we provide transportation for kids to that? Is it mobile labs? What does it look like?

"Those type of things are what we're looking at. To be real specific is not possible right now. Those are very general results statements to serve kids in a new way, not what we're currently doing." 

Josh Peters, the director of curriculum and instruction who helped guide the process of creating the strategic plan with the community members on the committee, said some action plan should be in place soon.

Because it's a five-year plan, with five broad strategies and 25 "results" — which are more specific goals within the strategies — he expects the district to choose four or five of those goals to implement each of the five years. It wouldn't be possible to implement the whole plan at once.

When the district is already doing something, such as the goal of creating community partnerships, or providing a "strong and consistent mentoring program for all first and second year staff," the plan is to make those programs district-wide and consistent in quality and quantity.

Rather than families thinking they want to ensure their child attends a specific building, he said, the hope is that all of the buildings will offer equally attractive options for families. 

"Not just where do we want to be, but what are we as a district already doing really well and how do we make sure that's district-wide?" Peters said. "Some of our school have really strong, beneficial partnerships that are really strong for our students and staff, and other buildings don't necessarily have those same partnerships.

"We want that every building is going to have those strong partnerships, so everybody can have what those schools are benefiting from." 

In some cases, Fregeau said, the district will have to weigh goals in the strategic plan against programs that are already in place, and possibly stop doing some of the things that are happening now, in order to put money and personnel into implementation of necessary changes. 

"This is our aspirational vision," he said. "Changes will occur and we'll use a collaborative approach. The district will look different for us to be a destination district."

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Herald & Review.

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