Second Meeting

The purpose of the second work team meeting was to continue what we began in the kickoff meeting and start to do some learning together by looking closely at the current status of the district, including district data. The work teams also spent time during this meeting identifying strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and desired results. This helped work teams identify the existing assets in the district and, from there, develop a set of aspirations.

Warm up: Share a Powerful Learning Experience

  • Purpose: The purpose of this activity was to further build the team and put work team members in the mindset of a student, who are, of course, the ultimate beneficiaries of the strategic planning process.
  • Activity: Each work team member was asked to respond to the following prompt: “Share a powerful learning experience from your childhood/adolescence. Tell us the story and why it was so important to you.”

Recap of First Meeting


  • Purpose:  To reground the work team in its core purpose and bring first-time attendees up to speed. (In some cases, due to scheduling challenges, there were many weeks in between the kickoff meeting and the second meeting).
  • Activity: The team was asked to reflect on the following two questions:
  • What stood out to you or have to been thinking about since our last meeting?
  • Do you have any questions that have emerged or things you would like to learn more about coming out of the last meeting?

The co-leads then presented a review of the process in the months ahead and immediate next steps.  

Data Sharing


  • Purpose:  To provide a brief overview of data pertaining to the particular lever, which was excerpted from a much larger data slide deck that we assembled at the beginning of the strategic planning process.
  • Activity: Work team members were asked to reflect on the following two discussion questions:
  • What patterns do you see in this data? What is new to you?
  • What about this data excites you? What do you find puzzling or concerning?

Work team members were asked to write their answers to each question on a post-it note and then stick the post-it notes on the wall. This allowed every work team member to see the patterns each team member identified in the data and to gain a better understanding of what was new, exciting, puzzling, or concerning to each team member. By posting all of the team’s answers, the team could more easily identify any emerging themes or common answers.

The co-leads then prompted the work team to think about the vision the team created together at the kickoff meeting, in light of the contextual data that was just shared. Work team members were asked to respond to the following questions:

  • What would you change or add?
  • Does this reflect the key challenge we are solving for?

Appreciative Inquiry Exercise

  • Purpose: True to one of our operating principles, the New Profit team introduced the concept of Appreciative Inquiry as articulated by Cooperrider and Whitney: “the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to heighten positive potential. It mobilizes inquiry through crafting an ‘unconditional positive question’ often involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people.”  We felt it important to bring the school district and city into a positive and hopeful frame of mind, in light of the disappointments of the several years prior.
  • Activity: The co-leads introduced a tool that is based in appreciative inquiry called SOAR analysis. SOAR is an acronym for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results. Each work team conducted an analysis of its particular lever using this tool. By answering a set of four questions within each of the four categories, the teams helped paint a picture of the current state of the particular area in Salem, and provided the work team with a shared understanding of the key areas of opportunity, along with their desired results and outcomes.

Each work team was divided into groups of 3. Each group had 45 minutes to discuss the following questions:

1. Strengths

  • What are we most proud of with regard to the school district’s work in this domain?
  • How might we build upon these strengths?

2. Opportunities

  • What are the opportunities we see for this work team? What do trends suggest might provide opportunities for our community?
  • How can we reframe potential challenges as opportunities?
  • What are our students and families asking for with regard to this domain in Salem?

3. Aspirations

  • What are we deeply passionate about with regard to this domain?

  • What are our most compelling aspirations regarding this domain?

4. Results

  • What meaningful measures would show that we are making progress toward our aspirations?

Each group was given flip chart paper on which to record their answers and notes on the above questions, posting their flip chart paper on the wall when they were done. Once all of the groups had posted their answers, the work team spent a few minutes doing a “gallery walk,” or examining all of the other groups’ responses. This was followed by a full group discussion.


Appreciative Inquiry
“At its heart, AI is about the search for the best in people, their organizations, and the strengths-filled, opportunity-rich world around them. A fundamental shift in the overall perspective taken throughout the entire change process to ‘see’ the wholeness of the human system and to “inquire” into that system’s strengths, possibilities, and successes.
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