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A yearlong process to create a strategic plan for Harrisonburg City Public Schools entered a new phase this week with the formation of six action committees.

Shortly after coming on as superintendent, Michael Richards announced his plans to involve the community in the creation of a strategic plan that would guide public education in Harrisonburg moving forward. Because he wanted to involve the community, he knew the process was going to be a lengthy one.

“The schools are essentially owned by the community, so they should be involved in this process,” Richards said.

The process began in the fall with a meeting between community members, staff and a consulting firm hired to help the school division through this process. The forum included a wide swath of community members from diverse backgrounds.

From there a committee was formed, made up 50/50 of staff members and community members, and the school board chair and vice chair.

The full committee met for three days to establish the mission statement, core beliefs and goals that will guide the committee moving forward.

“It took a while for it all to be pulled together,” Richards said.

The work they did included six goals for the school division.

Not wanting the strategic plan to be all goals with no action items attached to them to ensure they are accomplished, the next phase included creating action committees for each goal. The mission of each team is to create items that can be put into place beginning next year, Richards said.

That phase began this week, as each committee, comprised of about 15 members each for a total of 90 people, met for the first time.

The committees will continue to meet throughout the winter and spring, and in May a full report will be submitted. From there, Richards will take the strategic plan back to the original committee of 34 to get its OK before submitting it to the school board for official approval.

The school board has the final say, Richards said, and it can either approve the plan, ask for some changes or reject the plan. The latter is unlikely as the chair and vice-chair of the school board have been involved in the process throughout.

Richards has not yet announced to the public the six goals that are at the heart of these action committee meetings, but said he is likely going to post them on the school division website soon, pending advice from the consulting firm they have been working with.

Once the school board approves the strategic plan, “it’ll be ready to be put into action the following school year,” Richards said.

Contact Megan Williams at 574-6272 or mwilliams@dnronline.com. Follow Megan on Twitter @DNR_Learn

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