HARRISONBURG — After three eight-hour days of discussion, Harrisonburg City Public Schools will soon have a draft of the plan that will guide the school division for the next five years.

About 30 community leaders and school staff members met Wednesday through Friday last week to discuss goals, mission statements, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses of the school division and more, said Michael Richards, superintendent of schools.

The summit was loosely formatted by an outside facilitating firm that walked attendees through various topics, but from there the group was able to take the discussion in whatever direction it wanted.

"It was a canned process but one that we were able to make our own," Richards said.

From the discussion a draft of the strategic plan will be presented to the School Board and it will include a mission statement, 10 beliefs of the school division, and objectives and strategies.

From there an action team will be tasked with coming up with action items for each objective to make sure they are carried through and not just discussed. That team will include more than 100 people, Richards said. It's important to him and the board that all goals and objectives have a plan in place to succeed.

Richards said the summit was productive and a success.

"It went really well," Richards said. "It was uniquely productive and we've received a lot of positive feedback."

Much of the feedback that Richards has received has to with the difficultly of topics discussed, but their appreciation that Richards and senior staff members were willing and open to having them.

One attendee said that they've spent a lot of time in similar dialogue spaces but that dialogue never delved into challenging topics such as race, gender and immigration. Another attendee said it was her first time since coming to the United States that she felt she could discuss traumas that stemmed from these topics.

"It was a diverse group and I'm proud we were able to do a lot of that emotional work that will help shape the next five years," Richards said.

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

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