Future Search The Method

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General Education FAQ's

How can we assure that decisions made by future search participants will not be undermined by the school board? 

It is important that the school board buy into the process. If the board feels threatened by the process it could make things difficult, but the most common scenario is that once the board is educated and understands the future search principles, they get behind it.

How does the participation of school board members differ from the participation of others? 

They have to be willing to be equal participants during the process. In the end, however, the reality is that they do have special influence. They need to be clear about what the parameters are, what decisions are for the group and what decisions fall outside the groups purview. Also, if something comes up that they would have trouble approving they need say so during the process.

How can we resolve public meeting requirements triggered by the participation of elected officials such as school board members?

In some states that have public meeting requirements, these requirements fall away if no more than two members participate. A number of creative solutions have been found when it is important to have more than two members attend. One such solutions is to assign staff to welcome members of the public, tell them what is going on, give them a place to sit and observe and give them a time each day when they can say something. This has been found to provide minimum disruption to the conference.

Is there any point in trying a participative process like future search given the mandates handed down from the state and federal governments? 

When there are mandates in place, the process can be used to decide how mandates will be met in a way that is most supportive of the goals of the local school community. In spite of mandates, there are areas that are not prescribed by law. It is very valuable for community priority setting whether or not mandates exist.

How can we avoid having the future search process undermined by changes in district leadership? 

It can be especially valuable at the point a new superintendent comes into the district to give them a chance to hear the viewpoints of the larger educational community. In the case of changes in leadership, it will be important to have enough people committed to the process, so that it will not be undermined by the change. For this reason, it is important to get as much commitment as possible at the highest levels in the district and build a constituency for the outcomes of the process.

How do we deal with the fact that funding for projects we might want to do increasingly comes from state and federal sources rather than local sources? 

One possibility is to apply for grants based on the priorities established during the future search process. There are many sources of funding, including funds from private state and federal programs. Grants are much more available when supported by the kind of well described and supported plan such as that resulting from a future search. It is a great support for grant writing.

Is it necessary to do a pre-future search survey process to develop data for the conference? 

No. Information is brought to the process by including people with the information that is needed to accomplish the future search task.

How does future search compare with the Cambridge Approach or other traditional approaches to strategic planning, such as those suggested by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA)? 

Future search has fewer steps and is easier to implement. It is more supportive of full participation than other processes that are strung out over time and may have inconsistent participation. Clustering of times is an enormous asset of future search. Future search creates a strong commitment to issues and outcomes because all participants are present for all activities.

How much time from staff and other participants will be required for follow up once the conference is completed? 

The nitty-gritty work begins immediately following the conference. One approach is for each action group to hold smaller versions of the FSC in order to generate continued common focus. If each action plan group can commit enough time immediately following the future search, a lot can be accomplished quickly. If it is strung out over a number of months it will be less effective.

Can this be done at the local school level or only at the district level? 

It can be done at the local school level if there is real support from the district office and the board and if they support and participate in the process. Otherwise it wont get past these gatekeepers. Because the future search methodology includes people from district and state agencies, it results in a high level of buy-in compared with other processes.

Where should a future search conference held? 

See future search principles for the general site requirements. In an education suture search it is good practice to hold it somewhere other than at the school site to avoid distractions. It is good to be physically and mentally away from everyday activities.

What is the best time of year to hold an education future search? 

From the end of October to Thanksgiving, from the middle of January to May 1 or any time in the summer that you can get people to attend. Dont hold it at a time when people are distracted by other activities related to the school program.

How much planning time will it take? 

Three months is an optimal minimum to get it on everyones calendars.

How much staff time will the process take? For the future search? For followup? 

Time to make contacts, print up participants manuals, arrange for the facilitities, order food, and acquire other supplies. Follow-up is flexible depending on the complexity of the outcomes. It is important to make an adequate commitment of staff time to outcomes.

How can we keep down costs? 

Use public facilities rather than hotels. Get food services to cater meals. Get staff to volunteer, but if you leave it to this you sometimes dont get full attendance. Districts have supported staff participation in several ways: paid time, volunteer time, comp time.

What kind of issues are best addressed by future search? 

Issues that are beyond the mandates, such as early childhood education. Often a district will support initiatives if they know there is public support for them. Some things future search has supported in education:

  • Coalition partnerships.
  • Integrating groups that feel alienated  such as racial, age or gender groups  into the school family.
  • Developing curriculum, where there is leeway in mandates.
  • Developing new ideas for funding.
  • Facilities planning.
  • Raising and re-focusing broad personnel issues.
  • Coalition building with other community agencies. For example, getting health & mental health services, library services or other services needed by schools but provided by other agencies integrated into the school program.
  • Planning for physical and mental health coalitions with community agencies.
  • Implementing school safety plans by developing broad goals with police and other agencies.







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