Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Nathan Bourne

SLE to start strategic planning process


November 28, 2019

SEELEY LAKE – The Seeley Lake Elementary School board plans to undertake the creation of a strategic plan for the school in the coming months. They voted at their Nov. 19 meeting to hire Dr. Daniel Farr to help with the process.

Farr came highly recommended by SLE Superintendent Daniel Schrock who worked with Farr on a strategic plan at his last school.

Farr is an educational consultant with 34 years of experience in public education in Montana. He had a wide range of positions including counselor, science teacher, coach, curriculum director, principal and superintendent. He retired as superintendent at Sidney Mont. in 2017 and now lives in Helena. He spends his time doing independent consulting and teaches a variety of education courses at Montana State University.

Farr said strategic plans normally cost around $4,000-5,000 but he does it for significantly less because he is retired and sees it as giving back to the field that has treated him so well over the years. Farr is charging SLE a flat rate of $1,000 plus travel.

Farr explained that he worked as a lobbyist for small schools this last legislative session and one word that stood out when it comes to funding schools was accountability. While general school funding was given less than one percent increase, several pieces of legislation created other pots of money. To be eligible for those other pots of money schools were required to have an up-to-date strategic plan. Strategic plans help show accountability for how the money is spent.

One example Farr gave was a pot of $1.5 million for transformational or personal learning. That was allocated to just 25 schools that filled out a one-page application, had a strategic plan in place and got in line first.

Farr feels that if the programs that came out of the last legislative session work they will see more funding with similar requirements in the future. Schools like SLE should be prepared to apply for it.

A strategic plan helps guide all the staff to be working toward common goals instead of each teacher working toward their own independent goals.

Farr feels that involving the community in the strategic planning is critical for passing bonds or mill levies that support the school’s improvements.

Farr’s process involves a community crossover work session that begins with each Board member selecting five members of the community with parameters to get a good cross section. An example would be a group containing a retired person, a business owner, a high school student, a school staff member and a parent.

At the work session the Board members meet with their group and brainstorm on three things: strains at the school, things that need action and actionable goals. Following full group discussion, goals are prioritized.

This gives a good picture of what the community feels. An action plan is then created to address the top goals.

Farr estimated the preparation could be completed over the next month or two and the community crossover work session could be scheduled in February.

The next SLE School board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 16 at 5:30 p.m.


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