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PR-B completes strategic planning sessions

The Pine River-Backus School District completed its strategic planning workshop sessions Feb. 26.

The sessions included four public sessions that included school district residents, one session with students and a session with faculty and staff. School board members were also present for multiple sessions. The planning sessions attracted at least 35 students, 60 staff and more than 30 other participants.

Big River Group owner and CEO Bruce Miles led the final Feb. 26 session. Miles is the creator of the “Chainsaw Planning” model of strategic planning used for these sessions.

“I was a college professor teaching courses for potential school administrators and the old models for strategic planning were very cumbersome. They suggested a school district should take between 12 to 18 months to develop a plan,” Miles said.

Chainsaw Planning is more convenient for smaller school districts because it doesn’t require a large time commitment. Districts can also save money on the planning sessions by having staff trained to facilitate session, which PR-B decided to do.

School districts in Brainerd, Little Falls and Walker have used the Chainsaw Planning model. Miles identified participation as the most important factor in Chainsaw Planning.

“We’ve had 16 employees this afternoon. We’ve had a number of students in, we’ve had four different community sessions. It’s easy to use. People aren’t intimidated by it, and everybody gets to participate,” Miles said.

During sessions in the Chainsaw Planning model, participants listed positive and less than positive consequences of actions within the school district. Using those consequences, they were able to identify strengths and weaknesses and then form priorities for the school district.

Using the feedback from prior sessions, participants in the Feb. 26 session developed a final vision of the school district. They then split into groups to identify priorities for achieving that vision, and identified benchmarks to measure the success of their efforts.

“Quality staff development in technology and research based instruction” was identified as the top priority for the district. Other priorities included:

• Creation of an atmosphere of student and teacher accountability.

• Figuring out elementary enrichment activities.

• Hire, train and retain highly qualified and motivated staff.

• Expansion of pre-K-12 parent education and communication with parents.

Now that the priorities have been identified, administration will use the recommendations from the strategic planning to make blueprints for the district to follow.

School board members Jason Marcum and Chris Cunningham said they appreciate the positivity of the strategic planning.

“I really like it, I think it’s really great to see so many people involved. Just a different number of community members and staff, school board and everything like that. I’ve never been involved in anything like this so I think it’s really great that everybody is here working together. There isn’t the negativity that seems to have been sounding lately,” Marcum said.

“A lot of times we sit down and it’s always negative, negative, negative, and this has been a positive thing for our community. It’s a positive thing for our staff. Very positive, we had a great student session today. Students want to be heard. That’s the biggest thing,” Cunningham said.

Marcum and Cunningham also said the sessions allowed them to see what is important to students and staff more clearly.

Travis Grimler can be reached at Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @PEJ_Travis.