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Superintendent Kent Pekel suggests reworking school district's strategic plan

The board approved the most recent strategic plan in 2018, which he described as "building blocks."

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Rochester Public Schools

After just stepping in the door, Rochester Public Schools ' interim superintendent, Kent Pekel , is attempting to map a clear direction for the district.

Rochester School Board members had a study session Tuesday, discussing whether they should undertake the process of creating a new strategic plan. Although the district already has one, Pekel said it needs to be honed to be more effective.

"There's all of these different resources, but my early conclusion three weeks in is that we don't have that unifying vision — that list of priorities and mechanisms by which we can implement those priorities over a sustained period of time," he said.

Board members discussed the pros and cons of tackling that project, but did not make any decisions. Pekel said there are other priorities they can focus on if the board doesn't want to take on the challenge of rewriting the strategic plan in a relatively short time.

The district is in the midst of a number of high-profile projects, including the construction of multiple schools. Pekel has a one-year contract with the district, which will end June 30, 2022. However, he is able to apply for the permanent position that will start at the end of the interim year.

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The existing strategic plan was approved by the board in 2018. It includes a mission statement, a list of core beliefs, and three universal goals: access and equity, student achievement, and accountability. Each goal is accompanied by a brief description.

Pekel compared the district's existing plan to building blocks that can be used in the process. But he made it clear that in its current form, it doesn't equate to a fully developed strategic plan.

Board member Jess Garcia said developing a stronger strategic plan would help provide a framework for the board members and administration.

"To have something like this that outlasts all of us would be helpful for newer board members to feel safe and grounded when they start," she said. "If that (strategic plan) is a living thing, then we as the people are just plug-and-play; but the district is going to continue to grow."

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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