By CHELSEY POLLOCK
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY — The School Board this week approved a contract with a Massachusetts firm to assist the district in long-range planning efforts.
The $11,696 contract with the Massachusetts-based New England School Development Council will take the school district through a year-long planning process to set goals for the next five to seven years, said Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon at Tuesday night’s School Board meeting.
“Probably the most important work we’ll do over the next year or so is to make some plans and decisions about where we should go as a district,” said Hannon.
The firm, NESDEC, is a private, nonprofit educational association with more than 300 school district affiliates, according to the group’s website. Hannon said that Derry could also have the opportunity to join.
Reading from a NESDEC proposal at Tuesday’s meeting, Hannon said the board would likely appoint a committee of school and community people to help draft the long-range planning document.
“You’re looking at a select group of people who can bring us information and help us make some decisions,” Hannon said. “... It’s who you say you would like to hear from and feel that what they say has a lot of value to where the board wants to go.”
The board has outlined several areas of particular concern for the future, Hannon said, including curriculum, assessments, enrollments, technology and district facilities.
Over the course of the study, Hannon said, NESDEC representatives will spend two days in Derry conducting six focus groups with district stakeholders.
Within a year, Hannon said, the board should have a completed plan in hand.
Board member Ken Linehan said he hopes the process could begin as quickly as possible.
“I’m definitely in support of moving forward with the strategic planning committee,” he said. “I think it’s important because we have just left the budget season, and it’s going to come faster than we think. I’d like to be prepared when that does come.”
Member Neal Ochs said his concern was that other firms had not been asked to submit similar proposals.
Hannon said NESDEC was the only group she had contacted because she considers them to be experts in long-range planning and because they have done an enrollment study for Pinkerton Academy.
And for less than $12,000, Hannon said she thinks the investment is well worth it.
“I don’t think it’s a prohibitive cost, and I believe that the value we’ll get from that little money we put in is going to be huge,” she said.
The last time the district went through the long-range planning process was in 2003, according to Hannon.