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Building Bridges: A Superintendent’s Journey to Create a Community-Driven Strategic Plan

At our annual education leadership conference, What’s Right in Education, Dr. Candace Pelt, Superintendent of Central Linn School District in Halsey, Oregon, shared insights into her transformative leadership and strategic planning approach. Emphasizing the power of strategic planning, Dr. Pelt highlights its role as a roadmap guiding decision-making and ensuring alignment with community values.

The development of the strategic plan is really where we listen to our community, our families, our students, our staff, and we find out what their values are.
Dr. Candace Pelt, Central Linn School District Superintendent

A central tenet of the district’s strategy is community engagement, involving all stakeholders in the planning process to create a shared vision. Despite initial resistance, Dr. Pelt articulates the importance of transparency through a public scorecard, openly sharing successes and challenges to build trust and a sense of collective responsibility. “The public scorecard was the biggest seller for my board, making it very, very transparent where we were at and owning the ugly data.”

Central Linn’s strategic plan revolves around five pillars: Engaged Learning, Enrichment, Culture for Learning, Family and Community Engagement, and Extraordinary Staff. These pillars serve as a framework for decision-making, providing a cohesive structure for the district’s initiatives. Dr. Pelt appoints “pillar champions” within her leadership team, distributing ownership and accountability for each pillar. Candace shares that the plan lives beyond the superintendent stating, “Nobody saw this as the superintendent coming in and forcing a plan, but whether I’m there or not, the plan would live, growth would happen, improvement would happen.” This decentralization ensures that the strategic plan becomes an integral part of the organizational culture.

Aligning communication with the pillars is a key element of the strategic plan, providing a consistent narrative for staff, board members, and the community. While challenges, such as overcoming skepticism and setting realistic expectations, were present, the wins included a more engaged board, heightened focus on student achievement, and increased ownership among staff members.

Superintendent Pelt’s transformative leadership exemplifies how education leaders can foster collaboration and drive positive change by placing community engagement and transparency at the forefront of their strategic plans. “I encourage you to lean into it, to think about how this can be the bridge between your community and your school systems and how you can amplify student voice,” says Dr. Pelt.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Think differently.

Shift the mindset within your leadership team, moving from a reactive, operation-focused approach to a more strategic and forward-thinking perspective.

Plan differently.

Strategic planning involves not only creating a comprehensive plan but also ensuring that it is an inclusive and transparent process, involving various stakeholders, and using a dynamic scorecard that highlights both successes and areas for improvement.

Act differently.

Implementing the strategic plan requires a continuous commitment to change, transparency, and collaboration. Keep the momentum, facilitate open communication, and involve the community.

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