Focus groups give input as district eyes strategic plan

NASHUA – To help develop a long-term strategic plan, the school district has been holding a series of focus groups that have yielded input from more than 200 school district staff and community members.

Over the past three weeks, there have been 20 different focus groups, with the goal of gathering input from a range of constituencies, including district staff, students and parents.

The focus groups also extended outside the school district and have included members of the business community, the ethnic community, clergy and senior citizens.

“We reached out to 438 people, and 223 participated,” Stacy Hynes, the district’s director of grants and community development, told members at Monday night’s school board meeting.

In June, the school board voted to hire Future Management Systems, of Beverly, Mass., to assist the school district in developing a long-term strategic plan for the next five years.

The firm is being paid $25,000 to $30,000 for its services.

Hynes said participants were asked what role schools play in the community, which programs they would like to see expanded and which should be reduced or cut and what the major obstacles are for the district.

The meetings were recorded, and the firm will analyze the results and produce an “external scan,” which will be presented to members of the steering committee Dec. 8, she said.

The timeline has the strategic planning process concluding in March. At that point, there are supposed to be a set of specific goals that can be measured and implemented.

The development of a strategic plan also includes a review of the district’s facilities and whether any changes, such as redistricting or closing a school, would be necessary.

The next meeting of the facilities working group is Dec. 4.

At Monday night’s meeting, school board member Robert Hallowell, a member of the work group, said he is concerned that there needs to be more meetings before then so the committee can come to some conclusions.

Also, Hallowell asked what role Janet Valeri, principal of Ledge Street Elementary School, is playing in the strategic planning process.

Valeri is being paid a $2,500 stipend to coordinate the strategic planning process, but Hallowell said he was unclear what her responsibilities are.

“I was under the impression she would be attending meetings,” Hallowell said. “That she would be the person sitting here giving us updates about what’s going on.”

School board President Tom Vaughan said much of what Valeri has done has been behind the scenes and isn’t necessarily visible to the board. Valeri was not at Monday night’s meeting.

“It revolves around keeping Mary in touch with things in the district, keeping her connected,” Vaughan said, referring to Mary Murray of Future Management Systems.

Jim Mealey, the district’s chief operating officer, said Valeri acts as the “go between” keeping the district and the firm on the same page.

More information about the district’s strategic planning process can be found at