OUR SCHOOLS

Superintendent unveils long-term plan

skinney@keynoter.comAugust 21, 2013 

After a recent series of public input sessions, Monroe County School District Superintendent Mark Porter has rolled out the latest version of a long-term strategic plan.

The School Board heard the Aug. 13 presentation during a workshop at Marathon High School; member Ron Martin was out of town.

The six strategic objectives, the result of numerous "community engagement sessions" followed on July 22 by an "action-planning meeting," are filled with managerial language.

The six objectives, attached to the motto "charting the course to change," are:

-- Outstanding student achievement.

-- Effective communication and community engagement.

-- High-performing workforce.

-- Leader in technology and innovation.

-- Accountable resource management.

-- Climate and culture for excellence.

During his remarks, Porter said, "Communication, again, I think is something that has been very close to the top of my priority list since I came. We need to continue to open up pathways for feedback as well as delivery of information."

In the fallout of a 2008 finance scandal that rocked the district and led to the ouster of husband and wife Randy and Monique Acevedo, respectively the elected superintendent and a high-level administrator, the schools system was described as having a "culture of corruption."

Porter said the climate should "foster trust and professionalism districtwide. This is always one of the most challenging areas to develop measurable outcomes for."

Board member Ed Davidson called for adding more emphasis on school-based management, an issue that was a focal point of his 2012 election campaign.

"The only way you get the buy-in is that parents, communities, neighborhoods have to believe it's their school and we're not nearly far enough down that road."

Long-term former Superintendent Bookie Henriquez pioneered schools-based management in the Keys, essentially recognizing the geographic challenges of the island chain and empowering each school to draw on community resources and partnerships.

Board member Robin Smith-Martin suggested adding at least one objective, a three-year financial outlook, "so that we can project out into the future" and shed reliance on ever-changing state funding formulas and per-student allocations.

"We can have a fund balance that's adequate to fund our needs," he said. "Then we can make our own decisions regardless of what the state of Florida does. If it surprises us to the downside, we have the wherewithal and planning to adapt and stick with our plan and we're not reacting to Tallahassee every year."

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