Happy New Year! It sure seems to me that if New Year’s Day could be moved to April 1, one could get so much more excited about the new year starting.

In SW Missouri, when we turn the calendar to a new year, we have two or three more months of cold, sometimes dreadful, weather ahead of us.

However, regardless of the weather, we are anxious to see what 2017 has in store for the Seneca R-7 School District.

The school board kicked the year off with a work session on January 5th. We opened the meeting by recapping the successful completion of the 2015 bond issue projects.

The high school safe room was the final project to be finished. In all, the ten projects we set out to accomplish were funded with just over $5 million of bond proceeds and about $60,000 of district reserves. Thank you for supporting our projects! We believe they were well worth the investment. Be watching for a public open house coming soon.

The majority of the night was spent on vision and goals. As I have recently highlighted, we spent several months last year surveying and meeting with staff, patrons, parents, and the school board to determine what was important to Seneca residents and educators.

From that came five focus goals: Continued Implementation of PLCs, Safe Learning Experience, 21st Century School, Maximizing Human Resources and Improving the Seneca R7 Image. These focus goals will drive our decisions.

We will review the action steps under each goal annually and make modifications to the action steps based upon what has been accomplished and what has changed or proven to be ineffective.

Along these lines the board also discussed the vision statement and mission statement. We talked about Tradition-Pride-Class and what that means to the district, and how that can be incorporated into a vision or mission statement.

One, easy to remember, but powerful, mantra we use often is “Every child, every day, whatever it takes.” This is a constant reminder that EVERY child is critical, and our daily work and allocation of resources must, first and foremost, be about helping children.

Vision and planning must also include future facility needs. We have termed it Vision 2020 in the past, but we actually are looking much beyond 2020.

One item that must be considered when planning for the future is enrollment. Both funding and facility requirements are somewhat dependent upon our average attendance. Our enrollment is presently up approximately 2% (just under 1,400 students in K-12). I presented a goal of 1,500 by the end of 2020.

I will address the facilities vision further in future articles. However, in brief, here are some of the goals. A track (and possibly baseball/softball field), expansion at Early Childhood Center, JH storm safety, and upgrades at the bus barn are considerations that are more short-term.

A couple of long-term visions are a performing arts facility and finding a building on the north end of the district that might be converted to serve as a K-3 facility for students closer to Joplin.

I look forward to discussing these more in the future. I appreciate the board having a vision. I wish everyone a wonderful year in 2017!

By Dr. Jim Cummins

(Dr. Jim Cummins is superintendent of the Seneca R-7 School District. He can be reached at jcummins@senecar7.com.)

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