School Business Affairs November 2019

14 NOVEMBER 2019 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS understand the process and have an opportunity to pro- vide feedback. Therefore, a community survey is critical. Solicit feedback from every stakeholder group in the community via phone, online, or in-person surveys con- cerning their key values and what a successful bound- ary update means to them. In addition to parents or guardians, stakeholder groups could be neighborhoods, ethnic or religious groups, and district staff members. Not everyone in the community will attend a public open house, so it’s important to get feedback from as many people as possible among the different stake- holder groups. Aggregate the survey data to identify the common themes and incorporate the feedback when creating and refining the new boundary scenarios. Guiding principles serve as a compass to ensure that you’re moving in the right direction. Create a set of guiding principles to compare with each draft of the new boundaries during development. These principles serve as a compass to ensure that you’re moving in the right direction. District guiding principles should address equity, neighborhood loyalty, transporta- tion, class size, and the quality of the school or teachers. If the district doesn’t have specific board policies regard- ing the necessary guiding principles, the community sur- veys will provide a treasure trove of ideas. School districts are rarely able to update boundaries with 100% adherence to guiding principles. Guiding principles can even conflict directly with one another. For example, balancing diversity among schools and minimizing the length of bus rides may be guiding principles, yet balancing diversity may require busing students long distances. One of the most challenging aspects is managing this “give and take.” Step 2. Create the first boundary scenario and form a boundary update committee. With solid data and community feedback, it’s time to dive into drafting new boundaries. First, create a preliminary draft of new boundaries, a “springboard proposal” that will serve as a starting point for the boundary update committee. Use the stu- dent enrollment forecasts and land-use analysis, along with the district school capacities as a guide to moving boundaries for a balanced enrollment. Use community survey feedback to ensure that the new boundaries consider the community’s priorities. Continually refer to the guiding principles to confirm adherence to the goals set forth at the beginning of the update process. Establish a boundary update committee. This group of people is charged with refining boundary scenarios and providing a final recommendation (usually to the super- intendent). Because the community may view the com- mittee as the “gatekeeper” of the process, the committee must include a mix of district and community represen- tatives, such as principals, parents or guardians from the affected attendance areas, school business officials, and teachers. The best ratio of district staff members to par- ent volunteers is one to one. Step 3. Refine the boundary scenarios and incorporate community feedback. The boundary update committee will present a plan to the public. The committee should be tasked with continually updat- ing and refining the springboard proposal, interacting with the community at public open houses, and formal- izing a recommendation that the superintendent can bring to the school board at the end of the boundary update process. This is an iterative process; boundary committee work sessions will make gradual changes to the springboard proposal, which is an initial draft of the new boundaries, until the goal is achieved. The committee members should use their local knowledge and neighborhood insights when modifying the first draft into a final recommendation. Open houses keep the community informed.