Utilizing the expertise of community members with backgrounds in finance, architecture, communications and the like, the Solon School District’s strategic planning committee included 125 people. The committee members logged a combined 1,800 hours of work to create a plan for the district’s future, one that looks at important issues in finance, communication, social and emotional learning and facilities.
School Superintendent Fred Bolden said the final document, which is both a five-year plan and an action plan, highlights various districtwide objectives.
“I think two of the most discussed issues were a huge push for communications and a look at our responsiveness practices, looking at every student as an individual and supporting all their needs,” Mr. Bolden said.
In terms of communications, parents and community members were looking for a comprehensive communication plan, “one that highlights transparency of the district and how it functions,” he said. In its action-plan section, the committee wants to “create districtwide communication guidelines, redesign the district’s website with an integrated mobile app so it functions as a communications hub and complete a job analysis on positions that deal with communications,” Mr. Bolden said.
In terms of responsive practices, he said the district wants to implement teams and processes to advance social-emotional learning and inclusivity goals. It also plans to expand professional development in responsive practices for the staff as well as “embed social-emotional learning skills into the (educational) content areas,” Mr. Bolden said.
“The schools do more than just teach content. They are where students learn to work with one another, to collaborate, to just learn how to be with others,” he said, which was especially important after the pandemic when children were taught in a remote-learning environment.
The plan also looks to hire staff “that mirrors the diversity that exists in the community and complete job analysis for positions that deal with social emotional wellness.”
Mr. Bolden said one area of concern that came up often in strategic planning committee discussions was the Solon High School building and facilities. “People told us they love our school district but that our facilities need an upgrade,” he said. “The oldest building in our district is the high school, built originally in the 1940s. The most recent renovation was in 2001, and people asked what we could do now to upgrade that space.”
In the action-plan section of the document, the committee members stated that they wanted to “provide a comprehensive report that details the feasibility and costs of renovation of Solon High School and an additional comprehensive report that “details the feasibility and costs of building a new Solon High School.”
Mr. Bolden said those plans are in place to look at areas of concern and talk about ways the district can address them.
He said other facility objectives included reviewing all of the elementary buildings, some of which parents felt were “congested,” due to the fact that the district moved from four buildings to three, after closing the Arthur Road building.
“We are not in a position to need another whole building, but we need to address congestion in the elementary buildings and how to ride out the crest of higher student numbers at this time,” Mr. Bolden said. Enrollment hasn’t increased in the district overall but had rather decreased slightly and was plateauing, he said.
Mr. Bolden said, overall, the strategic plan is a way to look deeper into what things the community wants to see happen in the school district.
“We do everything through a consensus. We took whatever time it took to get the language and goals in this plan to be a consensus, not a majority vote, but a true consensus of our planning team and our community,” Mr. Bolden said.
One of the first steps the district will take is to inform the community of the financial challenges it faces, he said.
“We will educate our policymakers and stakeholders about the financial challenges facing the Solon schools community and actively engage them to find solutions that secure funding for the district’s growing financial needs,” the plan states.
This would be done through “designing and implementing a public education campaign to continuously disseminate information to our entire community on how Solon City Schools are funded,” Mr. Bolden said.
The district also is looking at ways to determine the viability of alternative funding options to generate new revenue for the schools, he said.
Additional aspects of the plan deal with a listing of beliefs that are inherent in the Solon schools, beliefs like treating all students with respect, seeing education as a way to empower all people, believing that quality public education is worth the investment of time, effort and money. Parameters, or operational guidelines within the district, dealt with striving for 100% of students passing state-mandated assessments, striving to support their social and emotional needs, striving to ensure all students are actively engaged in their own learning and prioritizing the safety of the school community.
Mr. Bolden said he’s proud of the work the committee has done on the strategic plan and proud of the way the district has used this strategic planning process since 1989. “We are unique in that we involve the community in the planning, we involve them in the discussions, and we come to a consensus on what is best for our district and our community,” he said.
Tamara Strom, communications director for the district, said the entire strategic plan can be reviewed on the district website at solonschools.org.