A Refined Seven-Step Process

by Tom Gunnell

Katy Independent School District’s seven-step process for engaging stakeholders in the decision to modify school attendance boundaries is summarized below.

1. Collect the background information you need. Katy ISD conducted an occupancy/capacity analysis of all schools, worked with the district demographer to generate enrollment projections for the next 10 years, and fine-tuned a draft facility plan that addressed needs for the coming decade.

2. Develop a holistic engagement plan to allow for a variety of community input methods.

3. Go to the public in a workshop forum with your best thinking and solicit input while plans are still in draft form. Invite the public to comment in workshops or online on the following: (a) possible solutions to address over/undercrowding; (b) personal values that should be considered; and (c) personal expectations to consider.
4. Allow public access to all comments and suggestions.

5. Prepare a “soft” recommendation and update the school board on the boundary modification, public feedback, issues presented and solutions offered.

6. Take a soft recommendation modified by school board direction back to the public in structured workshops and online. Provide predetermined criteria for input to bring about a change at this late point in the process.

7. Review and analyze inputs and modify final recommendation(s) as necessary.

The process set out in these seven steps has been refined based on its use for community engagement nine times in the past year. A wide array of Katy stakeholders, including board members, administrators, leaders at the impacted schools, teachers and parents, acknowledge the value of this process in developing a shared sense of ownership of tough issues within the community.

Most recently, this process has been used in Katy for bond planning and development for the district’s capital improvement projects.