ERIE, Pa. - In the Erie School District, graduation rates are between 70-80 percent. The average high school student misses 2-to-3 days of a school each month. For consultants who are developing the district's strategic plan, they believe that data must be addressed now.

"If you want someone to buy into and be totally committed to something, it's just wise to ask them what they think," said Mutiu Fagbayi, the president and CEO of the California-based consulting group, Performance Fact, which is overseeing the plan.

The consulting firm leading Monday's public forum meant to gain feedback about the district's plan.

"For too long, many school districts wait for the state to set the goals, whether that's No Child Left Behind or some other state or national program," Fagbayi said.

"That's why we we decided to do this at the same time as the financial plan, so that the needs the community identifies as far as the education side of the house are built-in to our financial recovery plan," said Superintendent Brian Polito.

State lawmakers approved $14 million in additional, recurring revenue last year. State Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Millcreek) feels that many times studies are funded without an end goal. But this one has changed his mind.

"I think some of the goals he's laid out are achievable," Laughlin said.

Among the early feedback Performance Fact has received prior to Monday's meeting: improved early reading level and test scores, 100 percent participation in real-world projects, what Fagbayi calls "proportional treatment" between students of different ethnicities and backgrounds; and above all, a 100 percent graduation rate.

And when the results from the survey during Monday's session were collected: some similar results, with parents and stakeholders choosing "critical thinking and problem solving" as the most important thing for students after choosing from 18 options. "Success in early years" ranked second during Monday's session. An estimated 80-90 community members showed up for the meeting.

The consultants will continue gathering this information through the spring. They hope to enact some of those changes as soon as this fall.

"I get the sense that people have been ready for this for quite a while," said Fagbayi, "I mean much more so than a lot of other places."

How to get involved

Another public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at East Middle School from 6-7p.m.