The Davis school board hired a facilitator Thursday night to assist with the planning and preparation of the school district’s upcoming comprehensive master plan.
But the decision was on a 3-2 vote, and came only after two trustees expressed doubts that the master plan process is “a good fit” for the Davis community, as one trustee put it.
In January, the board shelved a discussion of moving ninth-graders from their current assignment at junior high school campuses to the district’s high school campuses. Instead, trustees directed Superintendent Winfred Roberson to come back with a recommendation for a facilitator who would help prepare a broad, districtwide master plan that would examine facilities and academic programs and make long-range recommendations.
Roberson recommended Thursday that the board approve Kathleen Ohm, director of the Planning Center with the Association of California School Administrators, at a projected cost of $40,000 to $50,000. After Ohm was introduced, she outlined a yearlong process in which a team of 25 carefully selected Davis residents would identify goals and then flesh out strategies through which the district could attain those goals, followed by an implementation process involving further meetings to review progress.
Ohm has worked with several other school districts as they developed master plans using this general framework.
But when the trustees began asking questions after Ohm’s presentation, it quickly became clear that Susan Lovenburg and Sheila Allen are very interested in the process but Tim Taylor and Gina Daleiden have significant reservations.
“This is not at all what I heard the board express interest in” last January, Taylor said. To which Daleiden added, “I’m not sure (this) process is what we’re looking for, and a good fit for our community.”
Taylor indicated he’d rather look for a different master plan process that would be more “economically efficient (and) temporally efficient.”
Lovenburg referred to the discussion that the board had initiated some months back regarding ninth-grade reconfiguration, a concept she pointed out had gotten “no community buy-in” and had instead generated considerable criticism and resistance. Allen added, “We had to have the fire marshal here (at a school board meeting) because there wasn’t community buy-in. That’s how we got here” to a discussion of a broader master plan process.
Daleiden said she’d like to explore other options, but Lovenburg noted that the board wouldn’t meet during July, and any delay would push back the process, which she believes is already overdue.
Roberson said he had picked Ohm because he believes the master plan process she uses would be “the best match for this community. I know the conflicts (within the community). Fear of loss tends to hold us back from moving forward. … When (groups within the district) begin to compete with each other, I see a lot of things that are important to us being hindered and blocked. There are things we are missing out on because of fear of loss.
“A strategic plan will lay down a road map for us,” he continued. “This is a process I believe will move us forward as a district.”
But Roberson said it is also important for the board “as a governance team to be behind this.”
Roberson’s words, and some further remarks by Ohm, apparently were compelling for trustee Nancy Peterson, who said, “I’ve seen what lack of process does to our community” and added that in the current climate — with the district’s budget outlook improving, and various stakeholders hoping to restore programs — “it’s like sharks in the water, and they smell money, and everybody’s going to want a piece of it.”
“I don’t want just restoration, I want creativity,” she said. “I want a plan to move us forward so we don’t just tread water and have in-fighting. So now could be the optimal time to put this into play and move forward” with the broad master plan process.
After a bit of further discussion, the board voted 3-2 (with Allen, Lovenburg and Peterson voting aye; Daleiden and Taylor voting nay) to hire Ohm.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055.