Long-range school planning will include many voices

The Wilton Public School District is looking to work with community members to help develop a long-range plan for Wilton’s public schools, Superintendent Kevin Smith announced at the Board of Education’s April 26 meeting.

“My hope is to bring a very broad-based group of folks from across the community for the purpose for reviewing and discussing our vision and strategic objectives, looking at our progress forward, and then building on that work and developing the next road map for five to eight years out,” he said.

“I think the time is right to … bring a whole bunch of different folks together to look at where we want to go and where we are now, and then either reconfirm our present commitments or change them.”

Smith said there are “many” constituent groups he’d like to engage in the process and that he planned to send out invitations the next day.

“I’m imagining, as I started to generate a list, anywhere from 90 to 100 [participants], so really a broad-based group,” he said, noting that managing a group that size is going to be “a worthy challenge.”

“I’m going to have some good help, but I think we can manage a group of that size,” he said.

In addition to Board of Education members, administration, school faculty and staff, PTA representation, and students “as appropriate,” Smith said, “we also have a long list of community groups who I think would desire to participate,” including the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, Wilton Educational Foundation, League of Women Voters, Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, Riverbrook Regional YMCA, and Wilton Library.

“In every corner of this community, we find people who have a stake in our schools. I hear it all the time. … People move here for the schools, and I think this is one opportunity … to [not only] recognize but celebrate that shared value,” said Smith.

Over the course of three gatherings, Smith said, “what we would generate is what I would call a ‘road map.’”

The first two meetings are proposed for May 21 and June 11. The third will take place sometime in the fall, said Smith.

During the first two meetings, the long-range planning team will look at the district’s current vision and aspirations, then determine if they’re still held today. The district’s strategic objectives would then be looked at to see if they’re still the “high-level strategies that we want to employ in order to move forward and achieve our vision,” said Smith.

With information gathered from the first two meetings, Smith said, school administration will work on crafting a “road map document” over the summer, which will then be presented to the long-range planning team in September or October.

“My understanding is that there’s a rich history around long-range planning here in the Wilton Public Schools,” said Smith, “so folks — especially [those] who have been around for a while — will have a context of this kind of work, and I think our teachers and administrators, as they participate and share that work with their colleagues, will find it pretty beneficial.”

Board member Glenn Hemmerle said the long-range planning project would “certainly tie into the effort [the board is] making to put together a five-year financial plan.”

“There will be things that come out of that long-range plan that are going to have an impact on what we try to do and accomplish, so it makes all the sense in the world to do it,” he said.

“We can do five-year numbers based upon where we are today and what it looks like, but not knowing what our objectives are going to be doesn’t make it work.”

Board member Lory Rothstein said she thinks the idea is “terrific.”

“As I’ve said, the key to success with the budget comes down to a shared vision. It’s not enough for just us as a board or the administration to share a vision; it’s the vision for the schools that belongs to the whole community,” she said.

“The more of this type of work — engaging the community and talking about where we’re going in our schools — the better, and it will serve us very well.”