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WASB Master Planning


Planning is the management function that involves setting goals and deciding how to best achieve them. Setting goals and developing plans helps the organization to move in a focused direction while operating in an efficient and effective manner.

Long-range planning essentially is the same as strategic planning. Both processes evaluate where the organization is and where it hopes to be at some future point. Strategies or plans are then developed for moving the organization closer to its goals. Long-range plans usually pertain to goals that are expected to be met five or more years in the future.

Master Planning Chart

The WASB Organizational Services Team provides several options to pursue avenues to accomplish comprehensive planning in a local school district. The WASB is committed to assisting school districts in conducting an objective assessment and analysis of WHAT YOU KNOW about your district. This includes the full understanding of educational trends, student performance data and the current state of the districts program structure, finances and facilities.

We are also well equipped to assist school districts to have a clear understanding of WHAT YOU BELIEVE, and most critically to assure a clear ear is open to what your community believes are their expectations.Inclusive processes around listening, accumulating data/information and communicating lead to a collaborative strategic thinking.  This then assists in forming a Master Plan for the future. The results are long-term, fiscally responsible educational, operational, financial and facilities plans.

Then, the district can move forward together—working toward shared, strategic goals and objectives to assure excellence in education and that all students achieve success. The details of comprehensive planning, which lead to the ultimate goal of a Master Plan, are provided below. However, a school district is able to start at any specific phase to meet their local school district needs.

School District “Master Planning”: Make sure your district has a clear sense of self-awareness before going to referendum, Wisconsin School News, April 2014

Needs Assessment

When starting your master plan, school leaders should begin with a general overview that examines where the district is now (discovery), where the district wants to be (dream), and what is in the way of closing the gap between where your district is and where you want it to be (gap analysis). During this portion of developing your master plan, the district should engage with internal and external stakeholders. Make sure you know what your community’s dream is for your district.

Strategic Thinking

This process is called Stakeholder-Driven Strategic Planning. The process is based on the research of Robert W. Ewy and the Baldridge Foundation. This planning process involves key community and school district participants and is designed to gather input from individual community stakeholders. Since the process is tailored to the planning needs of the school district and balanced with current resource availability (staff, budget, and local resources), it is designed to take place in a reasonable time period. The cost is calculated on a time-needed basis and is dependent on the scope and goals of the school district for their Stakeholder-Driven Strategic Planning effort.

As a result of the planning process, a number of documents or deliverables will be produced to help guide the school district. These documents will be used by the Strategic Planning Committee to analyze the school district performance and to aid in the development of the strategic plan.

The Planning Committee should include:

  • Power – elected officials or political influences
  • Information – develop and disseminate knowledge throughout the community
  • Capital – banking and financial institutions
  • Well-being – provide health, safety and support services
  • Human development – provide knowledge and skill development needed by teachers and staff
  • Support – expertise and attention to the development of the family or community
  • Respect – people or organizations that transmit and reinforce honor and tradition
  • Justice – people or organizations that make ethical decisions

The strategic planning process will potentially produce the following documents:

  • External community review
  • Internal staff review
  • Financial Assessment
  • Facilities Assessment
  • Strategic Plan Summary
  • Deployment strategies
  • Balanced Scorecard or Strategic Map
  • Board of Education monitoring plan

The number of deliverables is dependent on the scope of the project and the local capacity of the school district to aid in the facilitation of the process.

These documents will be made available to the public, as the district desires or required, as the process proceeds. It is important to utilize those communication techniques available to school districts to distribute this information (local media, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).  The ultimate goal is to inform the stakeholders of the process and the resulting plan based on their input.

Stakeholder-driven planning links the local community with the school district by planning strategically. In order to perform at high levels, school districts must have a written plan connected with community values, educational best practice and an unrelenting focus on student learning. This written plan not only reflects community values, but it systematically aligns the mission and vision with school district actions or initiatives.

Facilities Assessment and Planning

The Master Plan will require a Comprehensive Facility Assessment of all owned and leased properties. The process to fulfill this part of the assessment includes evaluation of both internal and external conditions, existing intergovernmental coordination, and the history of capital improvements.

The first part is to ascertain the extent of deferred maintenance, remaining facility life, and renovations needed.  It should include evaluation and documentation of: Site Conditions, Building Exterior, Building Interior, Security Systems, Telecommunications Systems, Sports and Recreation Facilities, Energy, Environmental, and Utility Management, Code Compliance and Accessibility, Support Spaces.

The second part of facility assessment is to understand the use of the facilities within the existing academic program.  Evaluating the effectiveness of programs and departments use of current facilities is needed.  This includes evaluation and documentation of: Capacity, Instructional Tools, Furniture and Fixtures, Functional Adequacy, Room Finishes, Room Environment.

It would also be prudent to evaluate and document community spaces, whether or not they are dedicated or shared.

In addition to internal staff and/or a consultant to coordinate the assessment, it may be necessary to engage additional expertise such as Surveyor, Geotechnical Engineers, Environmental Consultant, Traffic Consultant, Food Service Consultant, Architects, Mechanical/Structural/Electrical/HVAC Consultants, Roofing Consultant, and others to complete the comprehensive assessment of facilities.

WASB Comprehensive Facility Assessments,” Wisconsin School News, January-February 2017

Facility Assessment: A district master plan will require a comprehensive facility assessment of all owned and leased properties,” Wisconsin School News, June-July 2014

Financial Assessment and Planning, Understanding the Current Financial State

The goal of a master plan is to provide the district with long-term, fiscally responsible plans that focus upon the achievement of the district’s student education goals. Therefore, a thorough and honest review of the district’s current financial state is crucial.

This kind of evaluation is rarely possible during time-sensitive budget deliberations. The analysis should strive for comprehensiveness and sophistication, seeking to take the temperature of a district’s finances by examining underlying fiscal forces. The assessment should assist a public body to better understand the nature of its revenues and expenditures, as well as its long-term and current budget solvency. It should also examine the district’s cash position and how revenues and expenditures influence service levels.

The data available and collected is used to assess underlying financial forces with regard to four types of solvency:

Financial solvency, defined as the ability to generate enough revenues over a normal budgetary period to meet expenditures and not incur deficits. This analysis should include a full documentation of internal and external factors that affect the district’s finances.

Long-run solvency, which examines the future costs of current fiscal decisions.

Service-level solvency, is the ability to provide services at the level and quality
that are required for the welfare of the community and that its citizens desire.

Cash solvency, which refers to the ability to pay bills and meet payroll.

The financial assessment will draw on a broad range of material to assess the district’s fiscal health.

The comprehensive planning process will build trust around a local school district’s efforts to educate children and provide adequate facilities to accomplish the educational goals.

Financial Assessment: Take the temperature of your district’s finances by examining underlying fiscal forces,” Wisconsin School News, May 2014