Capital School District

Five-year strategic planning

A few months after hiring a new Superintendent, a new five-year strategic plan was needed for the Capital School District (CSD) (a district of about 6,000 students located in Dover, DE.) The Board of Education (BOE) placed a significant emphasis on the importance of truly engaging a wide-variety of stakeholders in the process of creating a vision, determining strategic priorities, and implementing the plan. The board’s expectations for a strategic direction created by their community was far exceeded using Demosophia’s methodology.

The Situation

Capital School District (CSD) had a history of little leadership change and little meaningful internal and external involvement in setting the district direction. Stability was a hall-mark of the district – families have gone to the same schools for generations. The Board of Education (BOE) wanted both involvement and improvement.

During a retreat after the new Superintendent was hired, the Board charged him with creating a strategic plan and an implementation process that was inclusive, transparent, and created significant positive change rather than a document that just sat on a shelf. The Superintendent also wanted the process to unify his new leadership team, the teacher’s union leadership, the staff, and community around one collective vision and to be a first step in creating the collaborative culture he desired.

The Approach

The Demosophia methodology was fully deployed in CSD. The Discovery phase included surveys, forums, focus groups, and interviews. Over 40 people participated in three Colabs. These participants, who represented over 70 stakeholder groups, created a vision, identified challenges to achieving the vision, and identified actions needed to move the district forward towards the vision. This resulted in the BOE approving three strategic priorities for implementation.

In parallel with the development of the priorities, implementation processes and infrastructure were established and approved. These processes will ensure the BOE is kept informed with information vital for them to serve in their governance capacity. Training and coaching for the BOE, district leadership, and implementation teams ensured everyone’s capacity was sufficient for implementation of the methodology with fidelity.

The Results

Typically, there is little that upsets parents more than re-aligning school grade configurations and attendance zones. This was the first step in Strategy #1: Create a linear and streamlined district. By continuing the practice of listening modeled by Demosophia in the community forums, grade reconfigurations are currently underway with substantial community support. The two other strategies are progressing as well by employing the Demosophia processes.

A formal evaluation was conducted one year after the strategic planning process began. People reflected on the entire methodology from the forums through the actual implementation. The evaluation found in nearly all cases respondents agreed/strongly agreed that the board was getting sufficient information at the right time so that they could successfully perform their governance functions and that the superintendent and implementation teams are empowered to carry out the strategic priorities, adapting where needed. They further feel that both parties have the confidence to achieve the priorities. Lastly, they agree/strongly agree that the implementation methodology being used is effective and can be utilized in the future

The Capital School District has made tremendous strides in bridging gaps between the district and community during its strategic planning process with the help of Demosophia and Structured Democratic Dialogue. We focused on the ideas that would have the greatest impact on students and families and create positive changes that will ultimately improve our students’ performance, health and positive impact on our community.

Dan Shelton, Ed.D., Superintendent/Chief School Officer

The Demosophia expertise is in our methodology, not the specifics of your problem. That way we can help you successfully address problems that other consultants can’t or won’t. Ultimately, we foster a culture change that creates more results than many initially envision.

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