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Retreat to go forward?

J.D. Davidson, acting dean of the school of humanities and sciences, wanted to boost morale and build camaraderie between the faculty members at Utah Valley State College.Michael Jacobsen, the new superintendent for the Provo School District, wants the opportunity for in-depth discussions between him and the board members.

Springville city officials just wanted to work on the city budget.

Payson City Council members wanted some training following the election of several new councilmen.

Each looked to a retreat as the place to go to prepare for the future.

In UVSC's case, the news that rooms were being reserved in the Park City Olympia Park Hotel and activities being planned for a two-day stay touched off some taxpayer concern.

A copy of the proposed itinerary for the Fall Retreat - to be the first of its kind for the state college - prompted somebody to send a copy to the Deseret News office asking, "Is this any way to spend taxpayers' money?"

Davidson said he felt the cost would have been within reasonable limits even if all 92 faculty members had agreed to go and share accommodations, quoted at $49 per night.

Logistically, the arrangements became too difficult and the retreat was called off, said Davidson.

"But this was a first-time effort. I'd still like to do something," he said.

Provo School District has gone on retreat for years, according to Sue Tandy, the superintendent's secretary.

That fits right in with Jacobsen's game plan as he is a firm believer in the value of some open-ended time for board members to discuss issues in depth.

"I think the best time for a retreat is when there's a board change or change in superintendent," said Jacobsen, who replaced Superintendent Kay W. Laursen this summer.

"We didn't do that one time in Tooele District when we added a new board member and we had some problems with him because there were things he didn't understand. For instance, individually a board member has no power but as a whole, the board has a lot of power. A retreat may have headed off some of the misunderstanding he had about how it works."

Jacobsen said he became familiar with retreats in college when he served as a student body officer at the University of Utah. Since that time, he's participated in a number of business and education-type retreats and found them to be valuable.

"The biggest benefit is that you get a more productive business relationship."

The retreat this year is at the Homestead Resort in Midway, Sept. 16-17, for the board members and the superintendent. The tab for the retreat should be less than $1,000, said Tandy.

Jacobsen said while much is discussed, no decisions are made and the meetings - usually a cumulative total of about 10 hours - are open to anyone interested in attending. Minutes are kept.

The agenda is set according to what the board or the superintendent wants to discuss, including district capital needs and board polices.

This year, Jacobsen would like to talk about the definition of roles, his and the board's. He believes boundary options for the new middle school should be discussed as well as budget limitations and options.

"We need to talk about whether we have enough to open and operate that school," said Jacobsen.

Retreats give groups such as a school board a sense of cohesiveness, he said.

And getting away from the usual meeting site provides a chance for uninterrupted discussion.

"You're focused on what you're doing," said Jacobsen, "just on the matters at hand."

In Tooele, if the retreats had been held locally, "somebody would've been called out," he said.

Provo city officials settle for escaping to the East Bay Clubhouse for the day, still getting away but keeping costs to a minimum by staying local. Payson follows a similar plan, holding training sessions and work meetings in the clubhouse on the city-owned golf course.

Orem officials get away to Mayor Stella Welsh's cabin in Kamas.

Springville officials meet in the city building.

Several cities don't have anything scheduled but would like to see some movement toward organized retreats.

"I think they're beneficial," said Kay Driggs, Pleasant Grove's financial director.

American Fork used to hold retreats but is not doing so under the administration of new mayor Jess Green.

Nebo School District may look at something like a retreat within the next five years, said the current superintendent.

Alpine School District holds strategic planning conferences, sometimes in Park City or St. George, during the summers but nothing overnight.

Clive Buchanan, president of the Beneficial Success Institute in Pleasant Grove, says goal-setting and taking the time to write down those goals can ultimately save cities and governmental groups vast amounts of money.

Buchanan referred to a study by Yale University that looked at graduates after 20 years' time and found the 2 percent who had written goals when they graduated were worth more financially than the rest of the class combined.

"Several other universities have done similar studies," said Buchanan. "They've found similar results."

Goals fall into roughly four categories, said Buchanan, from dreams and treasures to burning desires and day-to-day achievements.

Dreams are nice to have but are usually forgotten because they are largely unreachable. Treasures are things that would really be enjoyed but time and circumstances put them off. Burning desires are the things that one will work to have happen.

The day-to-day goals help people achieve the burning desires, little bites taken on the way to a bigger feast.

"They're the steps you would take on the way to a bigger goal," said Buchanan.

"If you don't take the time to set those goals, we pay a lot of money to study and study and 50 years later, nothing has happened. Until a goal is set, nothing will happen and until it is written, it doesn't exist," he said.

Jacobsen said, "To me, the value of the retreat lies in having time for the kind of discussion you don't otherwise get in the monthly business meetings. That's just not a time for lengthy or deep discussion. In a retreat you can get that kind of dialogue.

"You develop a good understanding of one another, learn to value each other's ideas and learn to work with each other in a productive mode.

"You learn that we don't all work the same or think the same way. That's healthy," said Jacobsen.



City retreats


Alpine City Doesn't hold a retreat

American Fork Not under new administration

Highland Never has held a retreat

Provo Each year at East Bay NOMINAL

Orem Annually, this year in Kamas NOMINAL

Spanish Fork Day long each year in city hall

Springville In city building NONE

Lehi Never has held a retreat

Pleasant Grove Never has held a retreat

Mapleton Holds work meetings

Lindon Doesn't hold a retreat

Payson Occasionally at city golf course NOMINAL

Provo School Dist. Holds one annually $1,000 or under

Alpine School Dist. Holds strategic planning sessions Not available

Nebo School Dist. No retreats held as yet

UVSC Planned first this year $4,000

Utah County govt. No retreats held in past four year