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  • Keeping the Momentum for Continual Improvement!

    In the spirit of continual improvement, the members of the Public Relations Committee of the Upper Saddle River Board of Education and I have a new goal for the 2013-2014 school year; to solicit input from those in the community who know the organization best, the volunteers. Years of parent surveys and “coffees” open to the public have yielded some wonderful ideas about ensuring that the values of the community are reflected in the schools. However, Mrs. Jennifer Johnston, the chairperson of the Public Relations Committee, and the other members of the Upper Saddle River Board of Education want more. Mrs. Johnston said, “We would like to engage our most dedicated community members in meaningful dialogue around the ongoing enhancement of our programs and facilities.” 

    Who better to ask about ways to improve than the volunteers who are in our buildings doing wonderful work every day? However, enticing these already busy individuals to give more of their time for this new purpose could derail the process.  The answer; plan the events around their scheduled activities and take the opportunity to also recognize their obvious commitment to the organization. 

    We are scheduling several meetings throughout the school year inviting specific groups of volunteers to attend. Those who regularly volunteer in the lunch room, library, as class parents, scout leaders and recreational coaches will be invited to small group meetings either immediately before or after their usually scheduled times of service. The Board will provide refreshments and certificates of appreciation to all of the volunteers and then we will facilitate a discussion on what the district is doing well and in what areas are improvements necessary. 

    “While we believe that we provide a wonderful environment for learning, there are always ways to tweak our programs to better serve our children and the community,” said Mrs. Johnston. The idea to target micro-groups for feedback came as a result of several conversations between members of the Public Relations Committee and the administration. The discussion around the possible facilitation of focus groups led to a realization that bringing together individuals representing disparate interests would likely result in some general areas on which to focus but those suggestions might lack the specificity that would allow for positive and incremental change. The goal is not only to solicit feedback from knowledgeable sources, but also to facilitate the group discussions that may result in new thinking on the part of the participants. By coordinating group sessions with people sharing similar interests, the hope is that the synergy that develops will lead to suggestions for improvement that have yet to be thought of or articulated to the Board and administration. 

    Following each of the scheduled Appreciation and Feedback sessions, we will summarize the suggestions and present them to the other members of the Board of Education during the next regularly scheduled meeting. It can then be decided if the suggestions can and should be implemented in the schools. Our plan is to bring the ideas from the groups of volunteers to the full Board at the earliest possible time in order to keep the momentum for continual improvement moving in a positive direction.