Student stress and school finances top focus group discussions

Barrington school officials working on next strategic plan

By Joan D. Warren
Posted 10/12/17

Last week, the Barrington School Department facilitated 15 focus group sessions to discuss key points for the district’s five-year strategic plan.

The sessions were specifically geared …

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Student stress and school finances top focus group discussions

Barrington school officials working on next strategic plan

Posted

Last week, the Barrington School Department facilitated 15 focus group sessions to discuss key points for the district’s five-year strategic plan.

The sessions were specifically geared toward community members, teachers and staff, local business leaders, administrators, municipal employees, school employees, the town council, school committee, town board volunteers and lastly, students.

The hour-long sessions were identical in nature: They began with a discussion on the district’s mission statement: Empowering all students to excel, and what that means. The facilitators, Erica Galloway and Melissa Matarasso, representatives from Studer Education, the firm hired to oversee the strategic plan project, then asked what was working well, what could be improved upon and finally asked the groups to read from a list of words that express values that students should retain from the educational experience in Barrington.

“The process of having our strategic planning facilitators lead a number of focus groups throughout a two-day period, which included students from grades 4-12, staff members K-12, our parent community, our municipal government, school committee and administration was a great opportunity to obtain constructive and honest feedback from our stakeholders, which will assist the steering committee in developing a comprehensive strategic plan,” said Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore.

At one session geared towards community members, about 10 people were in attendance and participated in a lively discussion that encompassed the format.

Greg and Parisa Beers, parents of three school-aged daughters, attended the meeting and expressed their views, including the fact that Barrington is a high-performing school district.

“We need to be careful about making 'big' changes since we already have one of the top school district’s in the state,” Mr. Beers said.

There were some varied opinions of such topics like the school start time, college preparedness and busing issues.

Some common themes, such as the high standards, caring, accessible teachers and safe schools, were discussed. Areas for improvement included more fiscal responsibility, reducing student stress and better communication between the school committee and the public.

Ms. Matarasso, a coach-leader at Studer, said the focus groups were a success.

“Each session was well-attended with engaged participants who demonstrated broad community commitment to the future of the school district," she said. "As our team reviews and analyzes the comments of so many different stakeholder participants, we will look for themes of consensus and areas of both strength and opportunity to reflect back to the community and the district."

The next step in the process is to review results from an online survey sent out to stakeholders, review data  collected from the focus group sessions and identify themes. The results will go to a strategic planning steering committee for review and implementation, targeted for the end of the year.

Mr. Messore said the contract with Studer Education for their work in the development of the strategic plan and related services is $22,400. The department went through a bid process and Mr. Messore said Studer was the lowest bidder and yet met all of the requirements of the request for quotations.

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