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Community Member Perspective: Strategic Planning at Skaneateles Central

SKANEATELES, NY (February 27, 2017) – Below is a letter from Skaneateles community member Ed McGraw documenting his perspective and thoughts on the Skaneateles Central Schools strategic planning process to this point, including “Project 2021”.

My name is Ed McGraw, I live in the Village of Skaneateles and my granddaughter attends State Street School.  I am a member of the Strategic Planning Committee for the District and was asked to offer my thoughts and observations of the Committee’s work thus far.   In my job I am blessed to work with some excellent educators and high performing school districts.  Just like here in Skaneateles their students score well on key standardized tests, accumulate AP college credits and attend the best colleges and universities.  What’s not to like about those results?  Why should you change what’s already working well?

When the Board of Education and Superintendent Ken Slentz convened the Strategic Planning Committee they challenged us not to live off our reputation as a high performing school district, but rather to consider the needs of each individual student, how they learn and live, all within the context of a growing concern about the decline in student enrollment and the possibility of closing a school building.  Superintendent Slentz insisted that any change be measurable and driven by research and data. Those concerns are being thoughtfully studied by the work of the Board, administration and the strategic planning committee. 

Increasingly our students and their families are amassing enormous college debt.  Statistically the vast majority of students will not graduate college in four years which only exacerbates the problem. We also know that many of the careers and vocations that will employ our students have not been conceived or invented yet.  Every student learns differently and there is an increasing demand that those differences be accommodated.  Oftentimes intelligent people tell me that to succeed in a world of accelerating change our students need new skills and the ability to use an ever changing array of new tools.

But change is difficult, especially in successful schools and organizations.  The lure of the status quo is strong. There are many factors to address such as parental expectations, fear of failure, and the way current leaders and educators were trained to think and work.  The pull of historical precedent only adds to the task as we sometimes hope and believe in the comfort that what has worked well in the past will continue to work well.  Change in a successful organization takes energy and time; it’s like turning the Queen Mary.

The District has debt from past capital improvement projects retiring in 2021.  If timed properly capital improvements could be made to our facilities with minimum impact to our taxes. This timing is presenting us with an opportunity to make upgrades to our facilities that will both preserve our assets and help our students succeed.  This initiative is being called “Project 2021” and it is in a very early stage of discussion.  Community engagement will be part of “Project 2021” development and planning. The results of that work and the opportunity presented by “Project 2021” will allow Skaneateles to reinvent itself and remain a high performing school district.
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Eric Knuth
45 East Elizabeth Street
Skaneateles, NY 13152