Guideposts for the Future

Nov. 17-30, 2005
Guideposts for the Future
By Principal Bill Scott/ SUN contributing writer
Notre Dame Looks to the Next Decade Notre Dame has become the standard-bearer for Catholic junior/senior high school education in the Utica area. It is the inheritor of the great traditions of Utica Catholic and St. Francis de Sales. Notre Dame has offered a quality program for over 40 years, but while the school must cherish its accomplishments, the staff and community know that it must also continue to grow and improve.

On Nov. 8, the staff, students, and community of Notre Dame gathered to discuss issues and make recommendations that will help to guide Notre Dame as it strives to go from good to great. Preparation for the planning session began when clerical, custodial and support staff were asked to join the teachers for their scheduled superintendent’s day. In the October newsletter, principal William Scott extended an invitation to all members of the community to participate in the session. Invitations were also extended to students through religion classes, student council, and a general announcement inviting all students to participate on their day off.

The planning session was held in the gymnasium. After the rules and procedures of the session were explained by the facilitator, the participants took a few moments to reflect on the issues they wanted to discuss. Each participant attached a poster to the wall, listing the issue to be discussed and information about where and when it would take place. Most participants signed up for four or more sessions. At the conclusion of each session, a designated person entered a summary of the discussion and recommendations into a number of laptop computers. By the end of the day all sessions had been recorded, printed and collated for distribution to the participants.

The group produced a document which included the discussion and recommendations on over a dozen topics. Topics included school pride, strengthening Catholic identity, facility improvement, academic rigor, productive parent involvement, and restructuring classes to meet the needs of all students. During the closing exercise, the group came together to offer its final thoughts on the session. The consensus was that the participation of students and parents was especially beneficial and that the sessions afforded everyone an opportunity to get involved and shape issues that really mattered. The group understood that much work is left to do as the issues are studied and turned into action plans that will serve as the guideposts for the future.

The model for the session comes from a concept called open space technology by Harrison Owen. The model was brought to the attention of the Notre Dame administration by Sister Mary Reichelderfer who had participated in an open space forum with sisters from her order at a national conference. The model has been used worldwide for businesses, governments and organizations of all kinds. It is especially useful for bringing different groups of stakeholders together. The high involvement and inclusiveness that characterizes its use makes it a great model for planning into the future. Anyone interested in learning more about using the open space technology model may contact William Scott at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School. Notre Dame would be pleased to support others who might like to use this model or learn more about it.

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