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Strategic plan adopts vision for success

Next step: concrete action items

Kent ISD — After months of study and input to define Kent ISD’s primary vision and goals, now the “how” work begins, leaders say.

“Having clear goals with measurable outcomes will keep us accountable to our mission and to the students and families we serve in our community,” said Superintendent Ron Koehler, who took the helm last April.

The Kent ISD Board of Education adopted its first strategic plan on Feb. 21, which encompasses goals of those at all levels of the organization, in the school districts it serves, and with input from business and community stakeholders.

“We are pleased with this new direction,” said Kent ISD School Board President Andrea Haidle in a press release. “By clearly outlining and adopting a vision of success for students and goals for achieving our mission, we will create equitable opportunities for all learners.”

Andrea Haidle

The plan – dubbed LEAD for Leadership in Education, Advocacy and Development was developed over several months by a group of more than 40 ISD staff and community partners using data from more than 1,200 respondents in focus groups and surveys of staff, community partners, parents and students.

The five goals identified in the plan include continued leadership in student-centered programming, transparency and accountability, increased workforce diversity, improved community outreach and addressing an evolving workplace. 

The next step is for interdepartmental groups to create concrete action steps for improvement, likely by the fall, Koehler said.

The idea is for the strategic plan to be reviewed every three years, he said, “to determine, have we moved the needle in those areas, so (we can ask) what are we doing well, what can we do better… and they’ll be revisited and revised.”

Kent ISD is the fourth largest ISD in the second most populous region in Michigan and serves students and educators from early childhood through secondary education, adult education and special education. 

Ron Koehler

Breaking Down Information Silos

When Koehler took over as interim superintendent in January 2021, he asked staff what they wanted to focus on. Their answer: improved  communication and a strategic plan.

As an example of what stood out in survey and focus group responses, “both internally and externally, was people didn’t understand how decisions are made here,” Koehler said. “Through (strategic planning), I think it’ll become very clear, (and) will systematize how we make decisions.” 

He added that by having staff from different departments work together on action items, they hope to have the added benefit of breaking down information silos in the organization. 

Koehler said it was gratifying to confirm that staff, teachers and parents are overwhelmingly pleased with and proud of student programs, but that “the greatest input in those areas was, ‘Do a better job of communicating the services you offer, because there’s a wide range of opportunity here that not everybody might be aware of.’”

The strategic planning process itself “addresses many of the issues that were expressed,” Koehler said. “There’s nothing more important than active listening and responding to your stakeholders. This process allows us to engage directly, not a one-way, ‘Here’s what we’re doing.’ It’s an ongoing and active dialogue.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Kent ISD, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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