New strategic plan will guide Santa Rosa County schools for next 5 years. How to weigh in: – Pensacola News Journal

The Santa Rosa County School District will take a major step toward determining priorities for its five-year strategic plan when its survey for students, staff and other stakeholders closes Friday.
The strategic plan will highlight areas in which the district is excelling and areas where it can improve and provide a framework for how to approach and alleviate problems. The current timeline would have the strategic plan implemented for the 2022-2023 school year and run through the 2027-2028 school year.
“Our goal is pre-K through career. That’s how we’re preparing our students,” said Superintendent Karen Barber. “And so that really requires a long-range, thoughtful, deliberate approach.”
Want to participate?Survey for Santa Rosa County School District’s five-year plan is available here.
Breaking ground:Santa Rosa County School District breaks ground on new K-8 school
The school district is required to have a strategic plan, but recently has been drafting plans annually. Barber said a large part of the desire to move to a more long-term plan is the fact that Santa Rosa County is growing so much. Since 2010, the county’s population has grown about 24% as the county has added more than 36,000 new residents.
“There is so much growth that is occurring in our county and that really means we need to be strategic and deliberate in our approach,” Barber said.
Part of that approach includes K-8 schools. One opened this fall in Navarre and another — which broke ground earlier this month — is in Pace.
Barber said K-8 schools are convenient for families and help foster stability among students who can establish an identity because they spend their first nine years in school at the same place.
They also help alleviate overcrowding at the district’s current schools. The Pace K-8 school, which is expected to open in late 2023, will alleviate overcrowding at three schools that are operating with at least 89% capacity.
Barber said she has planned to make the change from an annual strategic plan to a long-term plan for a while. She plans to use feedback from the survey to coordinate six specialized town halls. From there, the school district will work with the education accreditation association Cognia to help create the plan.
“This has always been a part of my thought process when I become superintendent,” Barber said. “We need to have a long-range, very transparent, strategic plan in which citizens in the county feel engaged and feel heard.”
Barber said the survey and town halls ensures the plan includes the community’s input and the process is transparent. Barber said hopes the plan is approved by the school board by May 2022.
This is not the only instance when Barber expects to use this feedback structure. She said the district plans to build a high school in the southern part of the county and want it to have an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, but only if that is something the community agrees on.
“Is that what the community wants? We have an idea of what we’d like that high school to be,” Barber said. “But what does the community have to say about that?”
The town halls will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the following dates and locations:
The district’s survey, which closes Friday, can be filled out at bit.ly/3m0pDlz.

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