I love irony, and there is no better place to find it than in the Glendale News-Press. The recent article on the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education: “Board looks to focus priorities.” (Feb. 20) tells us that some of the board members are considering discarding one priority — the strategic plan.

That would be like discarding a map before heading to a difficult destination.

Though the board members tell us that they are selecting from a set of priorities — money, education and facilities — the strategic plan is not really a choice. It is the platform from which those other elements are developed.

Board member Mary Boger dismissed the strategic plan as possibly unnecessary because the community would know if the budget is “on track,” or if we are facilitating “quality teaching”? Exactly how would the community know if we are making major inroads in reducing the high school dropout rate, if we are increasing the likelihood that more students will be going to college or how many marginal teachers have been removed from its payroll?

Board member Chuck Sambar appears to say that because the strategic plan is ongoing, they don’t need to prioritize it. He would be correct if he means that all goals should be aligned to a strategic plan and that they refer to it continually as they make decisions. I am troubled by the appearance that he seems to express that its presence is incidental.

Board member Nayiri Nahabedian gets the concept much closer: that we must communicate with members of the community and engage them. That, in essence, is a key objective of a strategic plan — to convey to all stakeholders, internally to students, faculty and administrators and externally to parents, taxpayers and the legislature where we are going, how we are going to get there and how we measure progress.

Board member Joylene Wagner’s and board President Greg Krikorian’s opinions mirror Nahabedian’s in understanding that facilities or new construction are components of a plan rather than a driving force. That is a comforting thought. What is the point of having new buildings if the dropout rate is not improved? If a kid doesn’t graduate, it is of little comfort to his parents that he failed with the new air conditioning running.

Creating a solid strategic plan is the “raison d’etre” of a school board or any executive board charged with giving an organization direction. The issue these comments by the board members raise is that implicitly, they don’t have sufficient practice at creating and implementing a strategic plan.

All decisions must be justified to the mission of the school, and that mission must be stated in such a way that these decisions cascade from it.

Inherent in every key word of that mission statement is a qualitative or quantitative measure to which the board members, staff and faculty are accountable.

How much of the success many students experience comes as a result of the efforts by parents, individually by students and by the contribution of outside organizations? How much of that success is directly attributable to some exceptional teachers who excel despite significant obstacles? How much of the success we experience is due to excellence in execution of the strategic plan?

I am mounting a challenge to the school board to spend less time with the self-congratulation and self-praise portion of each school board meeting and spend it instead evaluating performance to the strategic plan. You can’t go through the process of an honest self-appraisal if you’ve just given yourselves a plethora of accolades in public.

 HERBERT MOLANO is a Tujunga resident.

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