District officials forming new plan for success

Capital School District has taken the first steps to craft a five year strategic plan that’ll tackle issues ranging from finances to behavioral problems.

The district began in mid-December by interviewing consulting firms. According to Business Manager Sean Sokolowski, they’ve narrowed down the pool and are in contract negotiations. A final decision will be made at the Jan. 20 school board meeting.

Sokolowski said the district has budgeted $45,000 to pay for expenses related to the plan, including consulting.

The district is looking for a firm with a good track record of gathering information, he said. “We may have ideas on where we want to see the district go and how we want to measure it,” he said. “But part of bringing in the consultants is to use their expertise.”

The consultants will be in charge of gathering stats on behavioral issues, academics, student attendance and finances.

Officials started discussing a new plan last year, but decided to put it on hold after then-Superintendent Michael Thomas announced his retirement.

Superintendent Dan Shelton said a new plan is crucial in helping the district meet certain objectives.

“As a new superintendent it’s my job to make sure we have a direction going forward,” Shelton said. “But it takes a lot of input to get a sense of what the community is going to support.”

SUBHED: Assessing the last plan

Writing a strategic plan is regular routine for school districts. Capital creates a new one every five years, with the most recent covering the 2009-14 school years.

Shelton said the previous plan’s building policies successfully led to the construction of a new high school. But he felt the plan didn’t quite meet the needs of students with behavior problems.

“An area that was of concern that we still need to work on is around student discipline issues and the number of students that were being suspended,” he said. Capital saw 5,185 discipline referrals in 2013; 3,850 in 2014 and 4,086 in 2015.

According to Tonya Guinn, the supervisor of student services, part of the district’s problem in the past was a practice of only punishing students when they misbehaved. The goal going further with this new plan is to try and reduce the numbers by finding out why students acted out in the first place.

“It’s essential that a student’s behavior, whether positive or negative, be viewed within the context of his or her educational, physical, behavioral health and in some cases familial needs,” Guinn said.

Targeting students with behavioral problems was the driving force behind the new Student Success Guide, which replaced the outdated Code of Conduct. Instead of simply punishing students, the new policy includes counseling.

Moving forward, Shelton said he plans on making sure members of the community have input in shaping the plan, and specifics will be released once work on it begins.

“I don’t want our direction moving forward to be Dan Shelton’s direction. It needs to be the community’s direction” he said. “We’re going to use our teachers, our administrators, and members of the community who want to volunteer for different portions of this plan.”