The Poland Board of Education took the first step Dec. 19 to formulate a strategic plan for the school district.
The board hired Dr. Ronald Chordas and Dr. Tom Marafa of Youngstown State University to facilitate and assist in the formation of a five-year strategic plan for the school district.
The next step came Jan. 18 when a core group of residents, staff members and business leaders gathered in the Poland Seminary High School library and split into 11 different groups to discuss what core areas were a concern for the Poland community. Aftering dividing into groups, the attendees decided on six core areas.
"You could have almost predicted what the groups were going to say," Ken Ekis, director of facilities, said.
The groups came up with the following six areas: facilities, enrollment, communication, curriculum and programs, finance and technology. With those areas identified, the groups will now focus on coming up with a strategy to move Poland schools forward over the next five years and beyond.
"Once those six areas were established, we sent out emails asking people which group they wanted to take part in," Superintendent David Janofa said.
He said a schedule was formulated throughout February and March so each group could meet at least three times to identify goals and strategies as well as plans to reach them.
For Ekis, the facilities were his primary concern. He said the key word is safety.
"Safety issues can include a lot from the air in a room, to fire alarms, traffic," he said. "Whatever we do with our schools, it must be safe."
The school facilities are a challenge for Poland. While the district has worked to maintain the old structures, it does come at a cost. Over the past two years, the average monthly cost of repairing facilities has been around $30,000, and many of the repairs were only bandaids, not permanent fixes.
The ages of the schools date back to 1882 for Union Elementary, which is the oldest. The newest building is the high school, constructed in 1971.
While the facilities were an issue among the six core areas, communication is one that the district is stepping up to bat on right now.
"We brought back the district newsletter," Janofa said. "We haven't had one since the last Bulldog Bulletin was published in 2011."
He said communication was one of the key areas people focused on and said the district needed to improve on disclosure.
The newsletter was created over the past few months and were sent out to 9,000 residents, homes and businesses. The students helped with the graphics and finalizing the 16-page publication.
"We have already heard some great things from it," Janofa said. "We put it online last week and we can track the number (of people) who look at it."
As for now, Janofa said the individual group meetings will begin and participants will address areas for improvement.
He said the plan was to create a vision for the future of Poland schools and now it is to identify short- and long-range goals and the necessary strategies to meet those goals.
Each group includes different age groups as well as new residents to the area.
"We have a good cross section," Ekin said.
By the end of March, the six groups should've finalized the goals and strategies that will help shape the direction of Poland schools and benefit both the students, staff and community.