Talk about the state of schools in Sedona continued as the Sedona-Oak Creek School District’s strategic planning committee held its second community forum Wednesday, Nov. 29 at West Sedona School.Don Groves, the education consultant leading the committee, reiterated the group’s goals at the top of the meeting
“Our goal is to develop the goals and objectives for a strategic plan with clear direction and support to best prepare our students to be able to live and thrive in an exponentially changing world.”
In its continuing effort to gather community feedback on the state of the district, the strategic planning committee invited about 40 participants to conduct an analysis of the district’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Many of these items overlapped with the SWOT results gathered at the Big Park Community School forum Nov. 15.
Repeated points included weaknesses in strife between schools and the school board, as well as low teacher pay and high cost of living; and strengths in the teachers’ dedication, strong school programs, and opportunities for creativity and innovation. The West Sedona School forum brought forward new points in the analysis, as well, including threats that the public perceives one school as better than another in the district, as well as editorial media bias.
Meanwhile, the forum saw opportunities to refocus the district’s mission, as well as increase parent support and collaboration with the community. Having a strong bilingual community presented both opportunities and weaknesses:
The forum suggested all students’ education could be enriched through a bilingual program, while language barriers can make parent involvement more difficult. Talk of teacher pay and general budget issues dominated the discussion after the SWOT analysis.
Lack of affordable housing, compounded with low teacher pay, makes it difficult to recruit and retain teachers in the area, the forum expressed. With the district’s continued declining enrollment, it loses funding from the state of Arizona.
This year, the loss of 80 students means about $280,000 less for the district — money that can salary between six and eight full-time employees.
“There’s some real issues at this point in time that won’t have time to wait,” West Sedona Principal Scott Keller said. “I want to be able to offer our great staff that we have at all our sites contracts for next year.”
Echoing the sentiments of a parent at the last forum, Sedona Fire District Chief Kris Kazian asked the SOCSD Governing Board members present what action items would come as a result of these discussions.
Groves explained the strategic plan would create three to five action items for the district to work on in the next five years, with action beginning sometime next year.
“If there’s a consensus of something that comes up out of all these meetings, I’m sure we’ll take it into consideration,” board member Karen McClelland said.
Vice President Heather Hermen added, “I know one thing I always wanted was to see a strategic plan put in place, and I see it as a benefit not only for our community and our parents, but it’s also going to be an attraction for a new superintendent.”
The forum provided translation for a table of Spanish-speaking parents, in an effort to bridge a gap strategic planning team members expressed concern about during earlier meetings.
There will be two more community forums: Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m. at Sedona Red Rock High School, and Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 5:30 p.m. at West Sedona School. While Spanish translation will be provided at the SRRHS forum, the final forum will be conducted primarily in Spanish.