MILLBURN, NJ—Millburn school officials, staff members and township residents came together at Millburn High School on Wednesday to take the first steps in implementing the district's strategic plan for the immediate future and the next five years.

In kicking off the session, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Christine Burton outlined the general theme of the process: “What do all of us have to do to enhance what we already know to be a fantastic district?”

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Burton noted the strategic planning progress has been used successfully in many large organizations in order to bring more focus to their mission and how they accomplish it.

She added a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “There is always a best way to do everything.”

The Millburn district's collective focus and its resources, the assistant superintendent pointed out, are centered upon student achievement.

In organizing the strategic plan, she said, committees were formed to focus on data and research into the status of the schools and the community, a steering unit to move the process along, an advisory committee, action planning teams, first divided into six strategy teams which were whittled down to four, and an implementation phase.

Burton noted 2000 hours were spent on the initial process with more than 100 action team participants, 24 steering committee participants and 158 recommended actions.

The purpose of Wednesday's session, she added, was to narrow the focus in an effort to set some initial priorities, and longer term priorities will be discussed at future meetings. It was pointed out that none of the priorities were “set in stone” and any priorities set will require approval by school officials and, ultimately, the board of education.

Breakout sessions were held with smaller groups dealing with overall strategy, articulation and instruction, culture and citizenship or resources.

The Alternative Press observed sessions on articulation and instruction and culture and citizenship.

Both sessions were focused on defining more fully the positive work the district already is doing and setting priorities to make this work more effective in the future.

Discussion in the articulation and instruction session centered on professional development.

Teaching staff members participating noted the district already has a “hub” website, known as Millburn University where school staff members can exhibit their skills and help fellow staff members develop their professional expertise in an effort to better serve students.

Staff members noted that although core curriculum standards play a key role in their classrooms teachers are not held to a rigid schedule during which they must teach specific segments of each curriculum. Rather, they implement the curriculum standards as they feel necessary in an effort to meet all goals by the end of a particular semester or school year.

Many of the district's teaching staff members already have implemented portions of the above strategies and the goal is to get 100 percent of the staff fully on board.

Also in the mix, the session attendees said, was the meeting of student growth objectives by the end of the school year and the collection of the greater amount of student data now required as part of the changes in the teacher evaluation system.

The culture and citizenship session noted the success of the district implementation of the state program aimed at stemming harassment, intimidation and bullying and the Caring Kids volunteer program in the township schools.

Chief among the priorities to emerge from that session was whether and how a character education program could be implemented in the Millburn public schools.

The next session in the implementation phase of the strategic plan is scheduled for Tuesday, October 15, at Millburn High School.