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District starting strategic plan process

Sparta — Sparta’s 2019-2024 Strategic Plan was stymied a bit by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new outline of the district’s mission, goals and priorities is starting to develop.

Superintendent Joel Stoner recently discussed some early focus group input regarding Sparta’s next strategic plan, stating that about 117 people have weighed in on what the district’s doing well, what its mission should be and where there’s room for improvement.

There’s still a lot to unpack, but Stoner said the input touches on instruction, curriculum, security and more. It will be used to help develop surveys for students, parents, staff members and the community, which will go out sometime in January. In the spring, the Board of Education will start to build a plan based on the results.

“It’s a wait-and-see for us right now,” Stoner said. “We don’t know what the outcomes are going to be. It shouldn’t be driven by me or by the board, it’s going to be driven by the stakeholders.”

The next plan will be for 2024 through 2027. This time around, the timeline is being shortened from five years to three, because the district learned that “Education changes, the world changes, at a faster clip,” than it once did, Stoner said.

The purpose of the strategic plan is to “narrow our vision and narrow our focus on the things that really matter,” Stoner said. He said he hopes stakeholder feedback will help “take Sparta to the next level.”

Though the 2019-2024 plan was hindered by the pandemic, it still yielded results. Stoner said the district has bolstered its communication and upped its use of social media as a result of that plan. Sparta has also gained a few students who previously chose homeschooling or an out-of-district school, and implemented a teacher mentoring program to acclimate new educators. 

Read more from Sparta: 
Food directors honored for enhancing school meals, student choices
Students launch Latinx Student Union

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Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley is a reporter covering Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids and Sparta school districts. An award-winning journalist, Riley spent eight years with the Ludington Daily News, reporting, copy editing, paginating and acting as editor for its weekly entertainment section. He also contributed to LDN’s sister publications, Oceana’s Herald-Journal and the White Lake Beacon. His reporting on issues in education and government has earned accolades from the Michigan Press Association and Michigan Associated Press Media Editors. Riley’s early work in journalism included a stint as an on-air news reporter for WMOM Radio, and work on the editorial staff of various student publications. Riley is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He originally hails from western Washington.

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