Brainerd School Board to hear 2 proposals for strategic plan

Brainerd School Board members will hear presentations from the Minnesota School Boards Association and PartnerED next month before choosing one firm to lead the strategic planning efforts.

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Brainerd School Board members are meeting at Forestview Middle School while the Washington Educational Services Building is undergoing a remodel.
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BRAINERD — Two consultants interested in working with Brainerd Public Schools to create a strategic plan will present their offerings to board members in December.

Superintendent Heidi Hahn presented School Board members during their meeting Monday, Nov. 14, with five options after having been asked to do so last month.

With a strategic plan as one of her primary goals after taking on the superintendent position this year, Hahn presented board members at their October meeting with a recommendation to contract with the Minnesota School Boards Association for the project. Board members, however, wanted to seek more proposals from other firms and businesses before deciding on a consultant.

Hahn then reached out to representatives from Teamworks, PartnerED, Nexus Solutions and a service run by Sheri Wilkens and Brian Dietz, who is the superintendent at the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School District.

“There’s a wide range of options. They have a range of expertise or specialties. They all have something a little bit unique that makes them stand apart as a consulting group that works with strategic planning,” Hahn said. “... I really want to have an active opportunity where our community can be involved, where our community can give input, where we can have focus groups with those stakeholders, both internally and externally.”


Hahn said she also wants someone who will work with the administration team and who will make sure the strategic plan acts as a road map with accomplishable goals. All the options she presented to the board, she said, have the capability of doing that, though some at a larger scale than others.

Board member Sarah Speer agreed that engaging the community has to be the top priority, and the proposals that did not include a communications plan made her nervous.

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She said she liked the Minnesota School Boards Association proposal as well as PartnerED because they both had a communications plan and also included accountability measures.

Board member Kevin Boyles said, for him, the most important pieces are execution and accountability. He said he is looking for someone who will give the district the tools to keep up with the plan as time goes on so it can evolve and not get out of date. He asked if any of the proposals include ongoing coaching from the consultants, and Hahn said they all have that capability.

Board member Charles Black Lance said his biggest concern is choosing someone who will make sure teachers and other district staff stay plugged in to the process and the plan itself so they can see where they specifically fit in with the plan.

Pricing for the five consultants ranged $5,000 to more than $31,000, with some consultants setting a fixed rate and others offering flexible pricing depending on the work done. Boyles said he didn’t think cost should be a big concern.

“I think we pick a vendor that’s going to do what we need to do, and if we’re shopping in the $5 bin on Black Friday, that’s a bad way to pick a consultant,” Boyles said.

Board members ultimately agreed to invite representatives from the Minnesota School Boards Association and PartnerED (formerly School IQ) to the next board meeting in December to present their ideas. Hahn said she believes both firms will be able to deliver what the board is looking for but have two very different approaches for the plan, an idea that Boyles said he appreciated.


With new board members getting ready to take over after the recent election, board member Tom Haglin, who is set to retire at the end of the year, asked if December is a good time to do this presentation.

Hahn reminded him the board members who won the two special two-year seats will begin their service in December, as state statute allows them to take over immediately after election results are certified.

This means John Ward and Michelle Brekken — the top two vote-getters in the two-year race — will take over in December. Bob Nystrom, who served at Monday’s meeting, will no longer be on the board next month, as he was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Jana Shogren’s resignation until the election. Monday’s meeting was the only one during which he had to fill in because of how late in the year Shogren’s resignation came.

Speer will not be at the December meeting either, as she was appointed to fill Nystrom’s seat when he resigned from the board last year. But as one of the top three vote-getters in the four-year board race, she will be sworn into office again in January, alongside newcomers DJ Dondelinger and Randy Heidmann.

Board Chair Ruth Nelson is retiring alongside Haglin at the end of the year, and Black Lance did not receive enough votes to serve another term.

Boyles said he believes the board should leverage the expertise of the outgoing members while it can.

The board’s next meeting, during which the two consultants will present, is Dec. 12.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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