Lenox asks public's help in shaping new school plan

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LENOX — The School Department is surveying parents, current and former students, staff and community members about what's right, and what could be better, about the town's two public schools.

The online survey will guide the department's next five-year strategic plan, and was distributed by email last Friday and also is available on the district's website. It was crafted by the School Committee's strategic planning group, which includes four parents, four community members, three teachers, three committee members and Select Board member Neal Maxymillian.

The group is going it alone this time instead of using the Public Consulting Group firm that helped craft a plan that expires in 2020, said School Committee Chairman Robert Vaughan, who chairs the strategic subcommittee.

"Basically, I'm trying to mimic the process that PCG went through with us six years ago," Vaughan said.

Some survey questions have been rewritten, revised, jettisoned, tightened up or added.

"A lot of thought went into relooking at each question and saying, 'Is this the wording we want?' " he explained. The new survey is about 80 percent similar to the version distributed in 2013.

"We're trying to do as much as possible ourselves," Vaughan said. "We want to come up with identifying themes and strategies, and that's where the rubber hits the road."

"PCG wanted us to think outside the box," he said. "It's hard for us to think outside the box when we're in the box."

The goal is to reach or exceed the 850 responses received for the original study. The survey is expected to remain online through mid-November.

"We'd love for members of the public to access it and fill it in," Vaughan said. A character count has been placed on the open-ended questions to make it easier to crunch the data, though most of the survey involves multiple-choice responses. Results will be disclosed at public meetings.

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Among the survey questions:

- What are the greatest challenges or issues that the Lenox Public School system has to address to provide a quality education to all students?

- Recognizing that Lenox is committed to teaching all the core instructional subjects, what do you believe are the most important skills and abilities students must master to be prepared for a successful future?

- What evidence should Lenox Public Schools use to evaluate the quality of education in the district?

The Strategic Plan Subcommittee, which met twice during the summer, is now holding 75-minute sessions every three weeks at the town library. The agendas for the public meetings are posted in advance. The next session is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 30.

People responding to the survey are invited to apply online to take part in focus groups. The goal for completing the strategic plan is during the second half of 2020.

Newly appointed interim Superintendent William Cameron will participate as much as possible, Vaughan said.

Teachers on the strategic committee include Ben Weaver, Mike Jackson and Peter Starenko, and parents participating are Oren Cass, Robert Fuster Jr., Kim Davis and Erika Baluk-Shepardson. Community members on the list are Tom Romeo, Roni Fenton, Gigi Yablonsky and David Fisher. All volunteered to participate.

Representing the School Committee are Vaughan, Molly Elliot and Christine Mauro.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter@ BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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