BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Community School District Board of Directors is narrowing its focus in goal-setting strategies to bring the entire district in line with future direction.
Harry Heiligenthal, Leadership Development Director with the Iowa Association of School Boards met with board members at Monday’s workshop to help the board learn how to identify specific goals and strategies to make the goals achievable as well as measurable.
“What you ultimately want is to be able to make that 30 second sell of your school district,” Heiligenthal said. “When you see, say a mom, with a couple kids and she says she’s interested in moving to the district…what do you say…how do you sell it before she has to change a diaper or deal with something else.”
Heiligenthal asked the board if they want to set a few rigorous goals or something similar to what they’ve been doing or a combination of both.
He then put the board members through an exercise of identifying what an 18-year-old graduate should know when he graduates.
The board members took turn putting sticky notes on poster board outlying what board member Dianne Hope called “soft skills” and the anticipated book or hard skills.
She said soft skills are intangibles such as competencies, behaviors, attitudes and personal qualities that help students work well with others.
Superintendent Erin Slater said setting specific goals that enhance the district’s student preparation for college and careers is a daunting task, but one that has to be mastered at some point by the board and future boards.
“What does that person look like,” Slater said. “The real challenge is how do we measure that. You can’t create an effective goal if we can’t measure it.”
The program is part of a Lighthouse program that the board chose to participate in as a means of bringing themselves to the level of those they give direction to.
Board President Timm Lamb has been a huge proponent of the program and believes if the board is going to be able to set high benchmarks for the district and its employees and students, the board itself better have high benchmarks as well.
The board has received honors this year for it’s own personal development and Lamb said that should continue even with future boards.
“This work may never be done. We should continue to do this kind of development ourselves so we can better help the teachers and staff and students get better.”
Heiligenthal challenged Slater and Director of Curriculum and Student Services Kim Harmon to parse through the suggestions of the board and pull some thoughts together for the next meeting in March.