Schools should embrace strategic planning

Jo DeBolt tried to inspire school leaders to embrace Idaho’s new law requiring all school districts and charters to have a strategic plan by Sept. 1.

Jo DeBolt
Jo DeBolt, strategic planning expert

Instead of looking at state compliance as a “requirement,” superintendents and school board members should see the new law as an opportunity, DeBolt said at Tuesday’s monthly Ed Sessions luncheon.

“Make it exciting — learn something about yourself,” DeBolt told business and education leaders, including superintendents and school trustees. “It can be an adventurous quest.”

DeBolt is a partner with LaPiana Consulting, a firm that specializes in helping nonprofits and foundations create strategic plans. The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation supported her trip to Boise to aid school leaders in developing strategic plans.

She offered advice and tips and answered some questions.

“Start by defining what you want to accomplish,” she said. “What’s your vision?”

DeBolt said schools can start by understanding their business model:

  • Who do you serve?
  • What do you do?
  • Where do you do it (geography)?
  • How do you pay for it?

She also listed the eight most important steps to creating a strategic plan:

  1. Create urgency.
  2. Form a powerful coalition and empower others.
  3. Create a vision.
  4. Communicate the vision.
  5. Remove obstacles.
  6. Create short-term wins.
  7. Build on change.
  8. Anchor change in the culture.

“All of these are found in successful strategic plans,” she said.

It’s important to make sure a plan is realistic and measureable.

“Have a simple path to action like a map,” she said. “You must be able to measure your performance and keep those measurements and plans in front of you.”

Not everyone in the school or district will buy in, and administrators should not stress over that. Instead, administrators need to get the right people involved — those who want to change or continue to improve — and empower them.

“I consider getting 60 percent on board to be good,” she said.

Finally, she said, it’s all supposed to be fun. Creating the plan, developing the plan and executing the plan should be enjoyable, a way to find out “who  you are and what you can do.”

“It’s all about getting your kids to a better place,” she said. “That’s fun.”

Click here for a list of the strategic planning law’s new requirements.

Disclaimer: Idaho Education News and the Ed Sessions luncheons are funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.


Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over one million pageviews in 2019. Jennifer has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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