Earlier this month, a consultant was chosen to help the district organize and write a strategic plan. Future Management Systems of Beverly has been hired to form the plan, a "road map" for the district's next three to five years.

In mid-November, the school committee approved hiring a consultant to help write a strategic plan, to be paid no more than $15,000 for the seven-month process.

Business Administrator David Keniston said Future Management Systems gave the school committee an initial quote of $16,403. The committee also received quotes from Boston and Cambridge firms at $24,000 and $51,000.

Because the committee had agreed to spend no more than $15,000, it is working with Future Management Systems to lower its price, changing the scope of the project, said Keniston.

Superintendent Claudia Bach said they have not met yet to discuss what might be changed with the plan to lower the price.

Assistant Superintendent Susan Nicholson stressed that tough economic times dictate extra planning.

"We feel that there is not a better time to embark on this process. It is long overdue," she said at the Dec. 1 school committee meeting. "We'll be revisiting our core values ... We really need to think about what works well in this district, and what to discard because it's not working. Through the process we will find ways of efficiencies."

The consultant will draft the plan over the course of seven months, meeting with school employees and community members for input. To get involved, or become a member of one of the strategic plan's focus groups, contact Bach's office.

"We're looking for input (for the strategic plan), a variety of perspectives," said Nicholson.

The money to pay the consultant will come from an area of the budget that has seen some relief from grant monies, said Keniston. A federal history grant covered some operational and management expenses, and the district will shuffle some funds around, using the surplus to hire the consultant.

Future Management Systems is based in the Cummings Center, a renovated factory originally built at the turn of the twentieth century by the United Shoe Machinery Company.

According to the company's Web site, they offer leadership and organizational development, strategic planning and human resources talent management. The company was started in 1979.

Besides numerous nonprofit organizations, government agencies and corporations, Future Management Systems clients have included more than 30 public school districts.

Messages left for Peter Jones, vice president of Future Management Systems, were not returned by Townsman press time.

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