West Ada trustees dive into district’s strategic plan

The West Ada Board of Trustees spent most of Tuesday afternoon discussing the district’s strategic plan and the evaluation form used quarterly to review the superintendent.

The trustees made only one decision on Tuesday and that was to the review form. They spent most of the afternoon discussing the strategic plan and agreed to join committees to review and work on pieces of the plan that was developed by a previous board and expected to last through the 2017 school year.

“It’s a wonderful document for educators but moms and dads and small businessmen are stopped cold. They don’t understand it and don’t know where to go with it,” said trustee Russell Joki, who took office July 1.

West Ada’s strategic plan is 77 pages and includes a mission, vision and two key objectives. The plan fulfills state requirements and also serves as the district’s working plan, which is why it is so deep with detail, West Ada Superintendent Linda Clark said.

“There is more detail in this plan than any I’ve seen around the country,” Clark said. “We engaged a significant number of people, beyond departments, to develop this plan.”

Clark told the board that a host of committees, including community advisory, parent, teacher and administrative, contributed to and vetted the plan before it went to the board for review and approval.

“I’m not faulting staff for their work I just think we need a separate document for public consumption,” Joki said.

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He pointed out the plan on the website is print-only so patrons are not able to cut-and-paste key passages. He’d like to see the plan include a message from the board chair of its importance, name committees and their members and add accountability.

“I do not find in our plan the name of one administrator who is responsible for anything or the name of a department that’s responsible for anything,” Joki said. “When we present these goals and strategies we are not conveying accountability — who’s in charge?”

Joki offered his services and notes from his page-by-page review of the strategic plan he said he wrote during his election with help from neighbors.

Clark welcomed Joki’s comments and said in today’s technological world, improving communication with patrons and parents is essential.

“I think (transparency) is important and your ideas will be very helpful and very appreciated,” she said.

Clark shared with trustees future plans for upgrading the district’s website to add more data and a featured called “Let’s Talk”, opening up dialogue between staff and parents.

“People directly responsible will answer questions,” Clark said.

The board’s only decision from Tuesday’s four-hour meeting was to direct Board Chair Tina Dean and Clark to add more rating choices to the superintendent evaluation form. Currently, each review category has two selections: “well done” or “needs improvement.” It could change to have a 1-to-5 scale or model another evaluation form.

West Ada last month added two new board members — Joki and Julie Madsen.

Clark has served as West Ada’s superintendent for 11 years and she said it’s not unusual for new board members to review strategic plans and evaluation forms.

Tuesday’s meeting started with controversy over the agenda and concerns about a June meeting.

A motion to amend Tuesday’s agenda was denied on a board vote. Joki said some items that were tabled at the last meeting were not placed on Tuesday’s agenda. Chair Dean said it was a matter of time as to why some things were left off.

Board member Carol Sayles said trustees violated open meeting laws in a June meeting when members inappropriately went to executive session. Her concerns were not addressed.

In another discussion item, Joki challenged the value of West Ada’s membership in the Idaho School Boards Association. He said large districts should have more of a voice in the ISBA, such as having weighed voting rights or more room on committees.

Trustee Mike Vuittonet, who has long-served on the board, said the ISBA has been a benefit for him, especially with board training events. He also said the ISBA is “headed in the direction of more equitable representation.”