Emma Newman staff writer
For the first time in over a decade, the school district is now enforcing a strategic plan, which aims to set up how the district will operate for the next three years. Approved by the school board on Sept. 8, the plan encompasses everything from education to leadership within the district.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy led the development process of the plan by creating different focus groups that included a board member, students, teachers, PTSA members, administrators and community members. The groups, which in total consisted of 100 individuals, worked from October of 2019 to August of 2020 to create the blueprint of the district’s plans for the upcoming years.
The plan is especially groundbreaking because, although a three-year strategic plan was in place about 15 years ago, no plan like the current one is in the public record. Therefore, Bregy had to create all of the aspects of the plan without any precedents to follow.
“We were really starting from scratch,” Bregy said. “We were definitely pioneers in this area because there just wasn’t anything to launch off of. [This] was a good thing too, because we were able to have a blank canvas and start our process from a really authentic perspective.”
This made BHUSD stand out from other schools, almost all of whom already have a three-year plan. Board President Isabel Hacker believes that the fact that this type of plan didn’t exist already in BHUSD was “mind-boggling.”
“Most districts do have a strategic plan every three years that they adapt so that they’re organized [in] how they plan, how they spend their budget, and how they organize around professional development, adopting textbooks and all their connecting activities that take place in the district,” Hacker said.
While Bregy was the leader of the creation process for the plan, the school board originally proposed the idea behind the plan.
“The district hasn’t had a strategic plan for many, many years, and one of the goals that we set for our superintendent was that he should develop a strategic plan,” Board Member Rachelle Marcus said. “As a result, within the last year, that was what he was working on.”
Bregy chose Marcus, who has a background in teaching, to be the board’s representative in the strategic plan creation committee. She was in the focus group dedicated to student growth. Marcus was specifically chosen because of her ability to lead the focus group.
In her focus group, they divided student objectives into three different areas of study: mathematics, language arts and science.
For this year, the group chose to concentrate on mathematics because it seemed to be the area with the lowest test scores within the district. The plan sets students up with a comprehensive plan to complete one year’s worth of learning in the subject, something that Marcus is looking forward to seeing.
“The plan that I would like to see is that the math plan works, that it is adhered to, that there will be accountability to make sure that it’s addressed and that at the end of the year, that we’ve reached the goal for that particular year,” Marcus said. “That excites me.”
Another objective that Marcus is passionate about is the leadership objective. However, she was not involved in the focus group for objective, with Bregy leading the creation of the objective instead.
As the person “responsible” for the district, Bregy obtained valuable information that “spoke” to him when creating the leadership objective. Specifically, he heard that many of the staff members don’t feel as if they have a voice in district-level decisions. One example of this was the transition of learning management systems (LMS) that took place at the beginning of the 2019-2020, which he said was a “nightmare debacle”.
“I’ll take responsibility for that because I was working on reconfiguration and so our technology department did a very limited outreach,” Bregy said. “I don’t feel like the right questions were asked and I don’t feel like enough staff were involved in that decision, so this is why it was very painful.”
He feels as if the situation would have had a better outcome if the students and staff had been given a larger role in the decision-making process.
“If we would have had a better process of getting information from our students and also from our staff about what is important to them in an LMS, I would truly believe that we would have gone with a different company,” Bregy said.
With the new strategic plan, Bregy thinks that this type of situation will be avoided due to the responsibilities of administrators outlined in the plan.
“What’s great about the strategic plan is it holds me accountable as well as other school leaders and principals that we do a much better job of getting input from parents, and from our students and also our staff,” Bregy said.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The part of the plan that Bregy was most proud of, though, was the diversity, equity and inclusion section. This was the last piece of the three-year plan that was created, and the timing was actually beneficial.
“I’m glad this wasn’t what we started with because we really needed to get to know how this process was going to work the strategic plan before we had [an objective] that’s going to really kind of grow, change and evolve,” Bregy said. “We were really ready for this. It just came at the right time with the right people.”
The objective was put into motion after students approached the administration about adding diversity to the curriculum. As a response, Bregy became enthusiastic about making it a part of the three-year plan, which includes a diversity awareness training program for staff and hiring a consultant to help, due to its real-world implications.
“I’m very excited about this piece because this is a piece that is very reflective of the country right now,” Bregy said. “We’re [a] very divided country in many ways [and] it’s just such an emotional state with the election and with so many things that are happening.”
Bregy is passionate about this new section because it forces the schools in the district to talk about difficult issues.
“This one is going to make some people uncomfortable, and that’s okay,” Bregy said. “We need to be placed in an uncomfortable situation sometimes in order to improve and have the exposure that we should as a community and as a school district.”
Hacker believes that this plan is important as well because of the need to make Beverly Hills a more open community.
“We recognize that we’re a diverse community, and we want to make sure that in everything that we do, we’re inclusive, whether that be through curriculum, whether that be through social engagement activities to promote a culture that is open, inviting, accessible, equitable across all levels of everything that we do as an organization, and the district,” Hacker said.
The diversity portion of the plan is extremely high-priority to Bregy because of its currency.
“If you look at this from a perspective of relevancy about what’s happening in the real world and in our own community of Beverly Hills, this one is the one that’s just a high priority for us right now to get right,” Bregy said.
In terms of all aspects of the plan, Marcus is enthusiastic about its promise, while also doubting its effectiveness.
“I, personally, am very glad to see [the plan],” Marcus said. “I just hope we don’t put it on the shelf [or] now that it’s there, we don’t implement it. It’s no good to be on paper. We have to have accountability to know that it is being implemented and how it’s being done.”
To Bregy, that is actually the best part of the plan: that its lack of reliance on one individual will allow it to be implemented with success.
“The most important part about this plan [is] it’s not created about any one person,” Bregy said. “It doesn’t identify with any one person in the district because it has to survive if somebody isn’t going to be here. [It] has to be based on the information from those focus groups because this is representative of our school district and not the people. This will grow and change based on what’s happening and the success that we have.”