FARMINGTON — Mt. Blue School District (RSU 9) has begun the community-input portion of its strategic planning process, Director J. Wayne Kinney told the Board of Directors Tuesday, Nov. 9.

In this process, the district and the strategic planning committee are looking for “parents, students, staff, retirees, elected officials, business owners, church groups and service organizations within RSU 9” to fill out surveys and offer their input on the future they envision for the district and its development in the next five to 10 years, according to a notice sent to parents and community members Nov. 8.

Director of Curriculum Laura Columbia said at the board meeting that the district has sent the survey as an electronic-form to “all board, all staff, all families who are in our power-school student system” and they will be sending out reminders at the mid-way point and last-call.

The district will be handing out 1000 hard copies of the surveys at all meetings, leaving them at the town offices, different areas of worship, etc.

“We are hoping the majority do come in electronically, it is easier. But we recognize not everyone has the same capacity and some people just like to write things down, so we have a lot of different ways people can access it,” Columbia said.

Kinney, a member of the strategic planning committee, said the committee is also looking for input from public outreach meetings in the next couple weeks at the district’s 10 towns, in zoom meetings, with student groups, and in interviews on radio and public-access television.

Superintendent Chris Elkington and Mt. Blue High School Principal Monique Poulin added that strategic-plan facilitator Mary Jane McCalmon had recently organized the student groups, a mix of students from the middle and high schools, who will meet next week.

Elkington said the point of the group is “to make sure we get a lot of student voice, too.”

McCalmon will be in charge of collating and putting together the data from the surveys once they have all been turned in, Elkington added.

McCalmon was hired by the board at the Sept. 16 meeting to be the district’s strategic-plan facilitator.

Board Chair Carol Coles clarified that while there will be questions that create quantifiable data, the surveys also have “open-ended questions.

“It’s not a yes-no type survey, although you can make it as simple as you like when you answer,” she said.

During discussion, Director Libby Kaut asked what percentage of survey-respondents would be a “successful response.”

“We have about 12,000-15,000 community members. For a survey to be effective, it’s usually considered 15 or more percent of the population,” Elkington said. “Obviously there are certain parts of the population — we hope to have a large majority of the high school and middle school students.

“It would be hard to figure a number but if we had between 2,000-4,000 respondents, that would be tremendous,” he said.

Coles concluded the strategic-planning discussion by saying the district “will have a mission, a vision statement and a plan when all is said and done.” It should be completed by the end of June, she added.

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