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School board adopts new Strategic Plan

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The School Board voted unanimously on Dec. 14 to adopt a new Strategic Plan. OUTLAW PARTNERS PHOTO

By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Big Sky School District recently adopted a new Strategic Plan which will guide the district’s efforts as it works to continuously improve and evolve with the needs of the community. 

The plan, adopted by the school board at a Dec. 14 meeting, is structured by four strategic areas: Flexible Pathways, Dynamic Program; The District Voice: Communications; Living Our Culture of Excellence; and One Big Sky: Two-way flow: school and community. 

“The district is in great shape but especially in education, it is important to seek continuous improvement and make sure the district continues to evolve to meet the evolving needs of the community,” BSSD consultant Skip Kotkins wrote in an email to EBS. “An inclusively-developed Strategic Plan leads to planned and coordinated steps forward as opposed to a bunch of independent actions. A Strategic Plan is also a way that the district can communicate areas it is focusing on.”

A 15-person Strategic Plan Steering Committee led by Kotkins, senior consultant at Seattle-based firm Carney, Sandoe & Associates, developed the Strategic Plan over a two-month period this fall. 

Attendees at the meetings included: teachers, administrators, current school board members, past school board members, general community members, school community members and a BSSD student.

In two days of meetings on Oct. 28 and 29, Kotkins took committee members through different exercises to discuss the district’s vision for the future as well as strengths of the previous plan and strategic areas that could use improvement moving forward. 

According to BSSD School Board Trustee Kara Edgar, the meetings collectively lasted almost 12 hours in which attendees were divided into different groups to develop and hone their contributions which eventually became the four pieces of the strategic plan.

“It was a very flat structure,” Edgar told EBS on Dec. 15. “We wanted to make sure that everyone felt that they had an equal voice.”

Kotkins originally worked on a strategic plan with the district in 2015 focusing on the district’s adoption of the IB program. The new plan builds on the successes of the old plan, according to Kotkins.

“We experienced lots of growth and everything else through the last few years,” said BSSD superintendent Dustin Shipman. “It was important for Skip to come back and get a pulse on the community, talk to groups of people again, and then help craft the work for us moving forward.”

The process for the new plan included an online community survey to gather feedback and Kotkins conversing with various members of the Big Sky community. 

“The Big Sky community responded thoughtfully and constructively which made the process very effective,” Kotkins wrote. “The Strategic Planning Committee, representing an inclusive mix of stakeholders, was great to work with and clearly had the best interests of the Big Sky community at heart. I think everyone enjoyed the process and is pleased with the outcome.”

According to Edgar, the most substantial  piece of the new plan is the Flexible Pathways, Dynamic Programming strategic area, which will help the district meet the needs of each student and ensure that there are multiple options available, she said. In particular, she highlighted the third bullet under the flexible pathways focus which will investigate and implement virtual learning options for course offerings.

“If anything, COVID has taught us that we’re all going to need to continue to be flexible,” she said. “So, I’m very excited about potentially expanding virtual learning options that could include additional course load for our students.”

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