Community voice guides Pelham strategic planning

Dr. Marcia Burke discusses the direction and strategic planning process for the new Pelham City School System with Pelham parents, teachers and residents during the May 1 community forum. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

Dr. Marcia Burke discusses the direction and strategic planning process for the new Pelham City School System with Pelham parents, teachers and residents during the May 1 community forum. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—About eight months ago, the Pelham City Council unanimously voted to separate from the Shelby County School System and form the Pelham City School System. The new school system has made rapid progress and key hires since the September 9 meeting, but with the July 1 separation date in sight, the focus has turned to strategic planning for the future.

“We’re trying to come up with goals and strategies for the system going forward,” Dr. Marcia Burke, of specialized strategic planning firm Burke Enterprises, said.

A strategic plan outlines the direction of a school system, including a mission statement, holistic curriculum meeting state and federal standards, and long and short-term goals.

In order to create a system reflective of Pelham’s desires, the Board of Education, with Burke’s guidance, has created several avenues to ensure community representation throughout the entire strategic planning process.

On May 1, the Pelham Board of Education held a community forum to gather information and opinions from Pelham residents. Following the forum the Board released a set of online surveys aimed at different target audiences: parents, employees and the public.

“People can take the survey more than once,” Burke said, stressing the surveys are designed to generate as much representative data as possible.

For example, if someone is a parent of two children in Pelham schools, the survey should be taken twice to represent each individual child’s experience, Burke explained.

“We are interested in getting responses from a wide range of people,” Burke said in a May 5 phone interview, adding the surveys had already generated more than 60 responses in each category since they were released. “We are getting a really good cross-section.”

The responses will then be analyzed for trends, setting “parameters and indicators” of where to improve or expand in the new school system, Burke said.

While important, public input is just one piece of the puzzle.

“We don’t base goals or decisions on just one piece of information,” Burke said, noting historical data and test scores will also be analyzed and considered to ensure the Pelham system is “among the best.”
The public surveys close on May 22, and the Steering Committee plans to present the Board of Education with a strategic plan draft in early June.