Santa Rosa City Schools officials are poised to launch a push over the winter break to include greater student input in the ongoing creation of the district's strategic plan.

The months-long process has included a series of community meetings as well as an online survey, but officials at the regular school board meeting Wednesday night said that the district's more than 16,000 students need to be better included in the process.

"We need to hear from the students, in order for this to come full circle; they are the heart of our community," said Charmon Murray, a teacher at Cook Middle School who has helped coordinate the series of community meetings.

The creation of the strategic plan for Sonoma County's largest school district was launched last summer and has included a series of board workshops, followed by eight community meetings. A community meeting is scheduled for tonight at Cook and next week at Maria Carrillo High School.

A community-wide town hall meeting has been proposed after the first of the year.

Among the issues that have emerged as areas on which the district should focus are communication, engaging parents, professional development for teachers, an even distribution of resources and others.

"We have people who are coming to this with very different purposes but who are coming with the same commentary," Murray said.

The update on the process received high praise from the board Wednesday night.

"It's been really impressive at every level," trustee Jenni Klose said.

An online survey has pulled in 400 responses, according to Superintendent Socorro Shiels. But Shiels, too, acknowledged that the majority of online responses have come from staff and that the student voice is lacking.

An online student-directed survey is expected to go live over the two-week winter break, she said.

The district will "work on how we can harness the student voice in all parts of the strategic plan," she said.

A final analysis of community input is expected to be presented to the full board in January.

Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at She can be reached at 526-8671, or on Twitter @benefield.