TRAVERSE CITY – The Traverse City Area Public Schools School Board has launched an effort to solicit input from the public to guide long-term strategic planning for the district.
The TCAPS Board of Directors randomly selected over 450 people from the community to be invited to participate in 24 focus groups between October 20 and 26.
The district has not solicited community input for strategic planning in this way for years, but recently the majority of the district board trustees have expressed interest in hearing from the community.
“Focus groups really identify what’s important to different people,” said board chairman Scott Newman-Bale. “It’s actually less about data. It’s more about what we should be asking people, what kinds of things we should be thinking about. “
Focus groups are facilitated by representatives from Northwest Education Services.
While the first focus groups are still taking place, Superintendent John VanWagoner said the board is already planning to schedule more in the coming weeks.
He said some of the original focus groups had fewer than 10 people.
“We’ve had everything like four to 15 show up at each of these groups,” VanWagoner said.
Many people were not interested in hosting a face-to-face focus group because of COVID-19 fears, so the board will virtually host many future focus groups, VanWagoner said.
Parents, students, staff and community members with no direct connection to schools are being asked for focus groups to “capture everyone’s voice in the community,” VanWagoner said.
“I think you need to have the ability to listen to your constituents, and especially the students,” VanWagoner said.
VanWagoner said student voices “will be a big part of this.”
The board wants to make sure students feel prepared for future careers and for higher education, he said.
Community members who are not parents, staff or students of the school district are also involved in the focus groups. These community members and taxpayers are also stakeholders in the future of the school district, Newman-Bale said.
“The school district is a complicated entity in that there are a lot of different stakeholders, and a lot of different people get something different from the school system,” Newman-Bale said. “Most people see it as kids getting an education, but in reality it’s a community that encourages people to move to the area and employers are trying to get trained and skilled workers.
Newman-Bale said developing a strategic plan for the future of the board using community contributions will provide “continuity” and a “stable future” to a system that experiences frequent change, including turnover of superintendents and board members.
“It’s not a static document, but it at least puts everyone on the same page,” Newman-Bale said.
In order to get as much feedback as possible from community stakeholders, the Board of Directors is hosting a virtual focus group open to all community members at 6 p.m. on October 26 and plans to send out surveys over the next few years. month.
“Even if you aren’t part of a discussion group and can’t access the community forum, that doesn’t mean you won’t have a chance to give your opinion,” Newman-Bale said. “It’s yet to come.”
The content of the surveys depends on the results of the focus groups. VanWagoner said the results of the focus groups will most likely be available in December.
“Any organization funded with taxpayer dollars has to be smart and listen to what all the constituents of the community have to say and make sure that we are constantly looking to improve,” VanWagoner said.