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Public and employees participate in district's strategic planning

Approximately 100 people participated in a series of planning sessions last week to develop a strategic plan for the Hudson School District. Participants were community members, parents, teachers and district administrators. The work sessions included two public planning sessions, along with sessions for the middle school, high school and the elementary schools, and a final session to draw up a draft document to be considered by the school board.

While some fine tuning to clarify language and omit any redundancy in the plan must be completed, Superintendent Ron Bernth said the draft plan will be presented to the school board at the May 13 meeting. The new plan is for three years as opposed to previous strategic plans that have been for five years.

"Things change very quickly here, and a three-year plan just makes more sense and is more meaningful," said Bernth.

Bruce Miles of Big Rivers Consulting conducted the sessions. The sessions ran from two-three hours, and Miles kept to a tight schedule. A majority of the time in the sessions was spent in small groups discussing and listing specific concerns, identifying goals and ways to achieve them. The makeup of the groups changed throughout the sessions to complete specific tasks but individuals were allowed to vote on what ideas or concerns they saw as priorities.

The final working session to develop the draft was held last Thursday night. District administrators, staff and school board members worked throughout the evening to draft a vision statement for the district, followed by a mission statement and a list of several priorities and goals to fulfill the vision and the mission.

The school board will have an opportunity at the May meeting to discuss the new plan and make any changes or suggestions to it before it is adopted in its final form.

Participants in each of the planning sessions were asked to complete an evaluation of the process. The response was generally positive. Participants said they liked the opportunity to hear new ideas and new perspectives on challenges faced by the district. They also said they appreciated the efficiency of the process and the leadership shown by Miles to keep the groups on task.

Participants also commented that though they wished more people would have participated in the sessions they liked the opportunity to hear viewpoints and opinions different from their own in a non-threatening environment.

Criticisms of the process included the scheduling of the sessions to earlier in the day, spending more time, spending less time, and not having administrators involved in some sessions. Some wanted to know more about what comes next in the process. There were also several requests for refreshments.

Participants were asked what their "biggest discovery" was during the experience, and many said they were surprised by the amount of common ground they shared with others in the groups. They also said they were surprised by the amount that could be accomplished in a short period of time and the positive attitude that most of the participants shared about education in the Hudson School District.

Bernth said the sessions along with information received from a survey the district distributed have provided the board and district administration with the involvement of more than 300 people in the strategic planning process, a far larger and more diverse group than has been involved in previous strategic plans.

"As a result, I think we will have a lot more investment and ownership of the new plan, and that will be good for everyone in the district."

For more information about the strategic planning process or the draft plan to be presented to the school board at the May meeting, call the district at (715) 386-4901.

Meg Heaton can be reached at

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604