Opportunity in Education: Challenging the Community

Writer  /  Johnette Cruz
Photographer  /  Forrest Mellott

For the past three years, the Center Grove Community School Corporation has worked on developing an initiative for furthering the development of the school system. Members have dubbed the effort “Strategic Planning 2.0.” It engages the planning committee with a broader outreach to the community, labeled as “The CG100.” The hope is that a minimum of 100 parents, business people, community members and current school staff will serve in this initiative. The major goal of the effort is to collect input regarding how the Center Grove School Corporation will move forward in the planning of all areas of education, for the next five to 15 years.

Working alongside the CG100, the Strategic Planning Committee is comprised of 40 to 50 people, school staff, administrators and parents. Together, the hope is to create a community-centered vision for Center Grove Schools. Members of the public, whether they have children in school or not, are encouraged to come to two meetings, September 9 and January 13 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Center Grove High School Auditorium. This will provide an opportunity for the non-initiative members to be heard and their opinions to be considered and reviewed later.

Dr. Rich Arkanoff, Center Grove’s Superintendent and Dr. Jack Parker, Assistant Director of Curriculum and Special Services, are the driving force behind this initiative. Dr. Arkanoff states, “When I was hired a few years ago, one of my first priorities was to reactivate the strategic planning process. Through my going into the community to get input from various stakeholders to attend meetings, we made this process agenda-free—really wanting to get a good grasp on the concerns of our residents and how we can come together as one unit to make decisions.”

These two men share the same vision, with Dr. Arkanoff explaining, “Both of us really care about what the general public has to say and this is a way for us to give them that platform. We want to brainstorm together, along with educating parents on what our individual roles are and what areas of capacity we work within. When the community is educated about what happens behind the scenes, we feel like at that point they can give us the quality feedback we are striving for.”

Dr. Parker agrees. He focuses within a larger responsibility of current staff, saying, “We want to develop goals to move CG Schools forward and our staff will also play a major role in guiding this process.”

It seems as though Dr. Parker and Dr. Arkanoff both emphasize the idea of engaging the current staff alongside the residents of Center Grove, as Dr. Arkanoff shares, “We want to shape a community forum so that a partnership is born within Center Grove. We want the public to be well informed of the ideas, planning processes and decisions being made internally.”

Dr. Parker explained how the meetings will work, “The first CG100 meeting will involve mini presentations, and will include topics such as facilities, teacher performance, special education, school funding, curriculum, and technology. The presentations will last about 45 minutes. At that point, we will ask the CG100 to provide input, and then can continue to ask questions as we go through the proper channels. We want to see where the community stands. When we have the second meeting in January, that’s where we will share draft goals with the CG100 and will then redefine the goals.”

The Planning Committee and board have had a lengthy journey trying to build a process, Parker says. “We didn’t really have any major obstacles, just lack of participation from community members. We understand that parents and our constituents are busy, but we were also trying to be as convenient and accommodating as possible. We believe education is the most important thing, and we want the people of Center Grove to look at our education process as a very important part of the bigger picture.”

Their final focus is on the participation of the community members. Dr. Arkanoff tells us that, “Essentially we want anyone who lives in Center Grove to be involved in the CG100 and 2.0 planning efforts. We don’t want just parents to come, we want community members to be there—parents-to-be, mothers of young children, grandparents, taxpayers, property and business owners—because all the decisions being made now will affect everyone in the future in some capacity.”

Furthermore, Arkanoff states, “We want people to come into this with a drive for the community itself so they can take a stand in other areas such as legislatures and long-range planning. What happens within the structure of our education system in the Center Grove community is crucial…and we want people to be informed correctly on processes and planning so they are confident in knowing that no decision is made with ill-founded information.”

So what does success within the Strategic Planning 2.0 effort look like in the eyes of both of these educational professionals? “To have 1,000 people at these meetings!” Arkanoff exclaims. “That would just thrill me and it would be fantastic to have a massive turnout! I challenge the community to do that—to come here and get involved.” Dr. Parker also adds, “Success would be for us to develop powerful principles and values to make our school corporation even better, one that people would be proud to take ownership in. The school system impacts the community, the value of homes and the workforce.”

Overall, both Parker and Arkanoff want the community fully engaged with this new cycle of planning. They want the Strategic Planning Committee to use input from the CG100 to identify and develop specific measurable goals and strategies that will help make Center Grove Schools more appealing to families and to equip the corporation to meet future challenges. As it stands, the current Strategic Plan is 99 percent on target with its timeline of goals. For more details on how you can get involved, go to centergrove.k12.in.us/cg100.

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