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Parents, staff craft short-term vision
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Forsyth County News

If there's one thing Buster Evans has learned about the Forsyth County school system in his eight months at the helm, it's that parents and staff like to be prepared.

"They take planning seriously," said Evans, who has served as superintendent of the nearly 32,000-student district since January.

It was a vision for the future of the county's education that brought parents and school system employees together Tuesday night for a strategic planning meeting.

Dubbed the "dream it" session, multiple groups of eight people joined together to discuss their dreams, no matter how obtainable, for the next three years.  

The session was led by Jon Abercrombie, the same facilitator from the Envision 2030 process with the local chamber of commerce in 2006-07. In fact, the planning meeting was reminiscent of that process, though on a smaller scale.

Abercrombie asked the groups to discuss their goals for the next three years, what they needed to accomplish them and the attributes they want to keep.

Among the many ideas were smaller class sizes, distance learning, 100 percent graduation rate, online classes and more vocational education and foreign languages options.

Tuesday's meeting was not the first time the school system has held strategic planning. The first such session occurred in the 1995-96 school year.

"Out of that," said school board member Ann Crow, "came the basis for which our school system has grown.

"The strength of the school system evolves around the partnership we have with you," she said during the introduction. "This can't be just educators. It has to be a true partnership, so we're asking you to be a true partner with us as we go on forward."

Tuesday's planning session is the third the school system has held, but the first with such a short time frame for goals.

The previous strategic plan, Vision 2010, had goals spanning a decade.

"[But] we achieved those goals in a short period of time," said school spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo.

"Plus there was so much change the community encountered, and we encountered as a system, we thought at this point, with the state of the economy and the community, that all we could really achieve was visioning out for three years."

During the meeting, the school board members drifted around the room, listening in on group discussions.

The lists of ideas were collected after the meeting and will be e-mailed to participants.

Using the lists as a guideline, the board, cabinet and school system employees will work to draft a "vision, mission and beliefs," which will then be posted on the school system's Web site for feedback beginning Sept. 27.

After about two weeks, the board will then approve the goals.

On Oct. 21, the Web site will begin taking community comments for a month.

"The sky's the limit," Caracciolo said. "You get to dream it, you get to put in anything you want for a month."

From there, officials will set objectives for each goal. The process should be complete by March, Caracciolo said.

Evans and the school board encouraged district staff and school council members to be candid about their goals, which was exactly what school council member Angie Busch said parents need.

"We need to be able to be part of decisions like this and imagine, dream of what we would like and possibly see it happen," said Busch, who has two children in the system.

"A lot of parents sit back. We wonder, we complain ... and I think by participating you will make a difference, your voice will be heard."