WORCESTER – After nearly a year of crafting the document, two city groups are poised to submit the district’s first long-term strategic plan in a quarter-century to a School Committee that, according to some members, may not be completely sure yet what to do with it.

"I don’t know how we’re going to attack this," said committee member Jack Foley, who added that the strategic plan is nonetheless a much-needed guide for a school department that hasn’t updated its long-term plan since before the state’s last major education reform in 1993.

Announced by the Worcester Education Collaborative and Worcester Regional Research Bureau last June, the plan is the product of an unusual development process that saw the district take a back seat to community leaders as the primary planners. While some school officials, such as Superintendent Maureen Binienda, did serve on the advisory committee and other subpanels that oversaw the project, the School Committee next month will receive a document that they did not play a major role in putting together.

Consequently, some committee members are balking at the idea of simply approving the plan right away, envisioning instead a process through which the committee and its various standing committees pore over the proposal, perhaps approving bits and pieces of it over time.

Committee member Brian O’Connell, for instance, has put a request on Thursday's committee meeting agenda calling for the strategic plan’s various recommendations to be assigned to appropriate standing committees for further analysis.

"I wouldn’t want us to rubber stamp it when it’s first presented to us," he said, later adding he would oppose a request to immediately approve the document.

Other committee members this week had similar reservations, saying that while they generally like the plan that’s been presented so far, there are also pieces of it they may not agree with. Committee member Dianna Biancheria said she’d prefer to consider the strategic plan a living document, for example, which school officials could return to and update over time as needed.

For those reasons, some committee members said they were surprised to see the plan included in the school department’s fiscal 2019 budget book that was released Friday. While the publication does not suggest that the plan has been adopted by the School Committee, it does endorse it, saying "the intentional implementation of the strategic plan will launch a new era for the district."

That description is accompanied by a list of the five goals included in the draft version of the strategic plan unveiled last month.

Ms. Binienda, who acknowledged the plan still has to be approved by the School Committee, said it was included in the budget guide "so that people know these are our goals" as a system, as well as "to show what the community wants," based on the fact it was designed with community input.

Some committee members didn’t see a problem with the plan being included in the budget book, so long as its inclusion doesn’t imply parts of the budget will be automatically allocated to fulfilling its recommendations this year.

"To me, it’s a no-brainer," committee member John Monfredo said, alluding to the fact that school officials largely already agree on the broader directions the strategic plan is pointing the district in.

Ms. Biancheria, on the other hand, questioned the move: "I would have preferred it not to be in there – it’s not approved," she said.

But Ms. Biancheria and other committee members also said they see potential in the plan, which if approved would act as a comprehensive guide for the district’s goal-setting and decision-making in the coming years. The plan covers a range of topics. In some areas it reaffirms the school department’s existing approaches to delivering education, while in others it proposes specific new initiatives like an "incubation hub" school innovation zone and an advanced learners academy.

"I’m pretty happy with the plan in general," said committee member Dante Comparetto, who mentioned he feels the document makes greater acknowledgement of the city’s changing student demographics, for example.

"I think that much of what is part of the strategic plan are items and issues that have been a part of what has been worked on for many years but in a much more focused way with concrete benchmarks and timelines," said committee member Molly McCullough.

But other committee members also wondered how much of the plan realistically could be achieved without solving the largest obstacle they see facing the school system: systemic underfunding by the state.

"I do think, as I’ve said from the beginning, one of the key issues here, and one we have to push even more than they push it (in the plan), is the funding" dilemma, Mr. Foley said, referring to an ongoing push by Worcester and other districts to get the state Legislature to fix the state’s outdated school funding formula. "We’ve got to keep the focus on that."