Mandan News

Mike Bitz: The school district strategic plan and accountability

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In 2007, the Mandan School District hired Dr. Marv Erhardt of Discovery Learning to assist the district in developing a Strategic Plan. Dr. Erhardt led a group of approximately 40 people through a process to develop a strategic plan for the school district. The result was a strategic plan with five goals:

1. Provide an organization structure that meets the governance, administrative, and educational needs of the Mandan School District

2. Create an environment of academic excellence satisfying external requirements and also meeting the diverse needs of all students

3. Develop a master plan for district facilities

4. Recruit and retain quality employees

5. Seek additional revenue sources beyond state funding

At the same time the school board formed five standing committees (Curriculum, Facilities, Finance, Personnel, and Extra-Curricular) made up of community members, and school district employees to advise the board on important issues.  Each of these committees developed goals that they hoped to accomplish. In addition to the strategic plan goals and the five standing committee goals, other groups and organizations have developed and set goals they hope the school district will accomplish. For example, additional goals have been added through the AdvancEd School Improvement Process, Mandan Tomorrow, and Succeed 2020.

As the board discussed all these goals at a school board retreat last fall they realized that between strategic plan goals, committee goals, school board goals, AdvancEd goals, Mandan Tomorrow goals, and Succeed 2020 goals that the school district was working on over 20 different goals. They also realized that many of these goals were ambiguous, in that different board members might have different ideas about how to define success for each goal.

As a result, the school board asked administration to review all the goals set for the school district looking for any similarities and overlap. The result of this process is a one-page document called a Strategy Map. The Strategy Map is a way for us to put all of the school goals (strategic plans goals, committee goals, Succeed 2020 goals, Mandan Tomorrow goals, AdvancEd School Improvement goals, etc…) on one piece of paper. Doing this makes it possible for board members to more effectively monitor how the school district is doing in meeting its objectives.

For each objective on the strategy map, the school board will need to set a target goal and put a measure in place to see if we are accomplishing that objective. For example, if an objective is that “Students will Graduate,” the board could set a target goals saying “90 percent of Mandan students will graduate High School.” Then we would use our graduation rate data and dropout rate data to see if we were achieving that goal. The key is to find a reliable way to measure each objective on the strategy map. The school board will get an annual report letting them know if the district reached the target they set for each objective. This added level of accountability should help the school district make better decisions based on data and facts rather than on feelings and perceptions.

The revised strategy map is still in draft form. We are in the process of getting feedback from interested stakeholders trying to improve it and make it a more useful document for board members. The school board will hold a retreat later this spring to finalize the strategy map.

Hopefully, this article has been informative to you. If you have any topics or items that you would like me to discuss in future columns, or you would like to comment on this article, please feel free to call me at the school (751-6500) or email me at with your thoughts and ideas.