MORE THAN A YEAR into its work to transform our schools and champion student success, Manchester Proud is delivering on its promises and fulfilling its mission with compelling and inspiring results.

As an early endorser and active participant in Manchester Proud, I have been able to both observe and take part in an open, collaborative community movement that has brought together families, students, educators, business owners and community leaders around one universal belief — the vibrancy, health and future of Manchester depends on the success of our students and our schools.

Accomplishing this outcome requires a clear vision for how best to prepare our students for success and a comprehensive and actionable plan to reform our schools to provide that experience to our students. Creating this vision and a new strategic plan to achieve it has been the primary focus of Manchester Proud for the past year and a half and I am excited and inspired by the progress being made.

Manchester Proud is on track to deliver a new strategic plan for the Manchester School District to the Board of School Committee in early 2020. There is much work to be done between now and then; the early returns, however, are very promising. As a member of the Manchester Proud Community Planning Group, a 28-member task force made up of representatives from across the city charged with developing the strategic plan, I have found the research and potential ideas raised by the planning process to be incredibly robust.

The five distinct areas of focus of the plan (teaching & learning, governance, finance, community partnerships, and organizational effectiveness) ensures a full spectrum assessment of all aspects of the educational experience in Manchester. Simply put, there has never been in Manchester’s history as thorough and comprehensive an educational visioning and planning process as Manchester Proud.

The exciting and promising progress to date can be attributed to two factors: incredible volunteers and an open and transparent community planning process. From the Manchester Proud Champions Council, to the Community Planning Group, to the volunteer work groups, to the dozens of volunteers who participated in canvassing more than 2,000 doors across all 12 city wards, to the thousands more who have engaged with Manchester Proud through events, celebrations, stakeholder meetings, focus groups and surveys, the grassroots volunteer power of Manchester Proud has been a model of what every community movement should be.

Equally as impressive has been the open and transparent community planning process Manchester Proud has undertaken since its inception. Every step of the way Manchester Proud has worked to ensure that all voices and perspectives are welcome by providing a variety of engagement opportunities for parents, students, educators, residents and community leaders.

Manchester Proud went beyond just providing opportunities to engage, however, and brought their message of championing student success directly to the doors of thousands of Manchester residents through neighborhood canvassing. The feedback collected through these various engagement activities was thoughtful, diverse and straight from the heart of our community and ensures that the final plan will speak for all of Manchester.

As the Manchester Proud planning process enters the homestretch, it’s important we remember that this is a beginning and not an end to a transformation essential to our city’s future success. Once the plan is finished and delivered to the Manchester Board of School Committee, the hard work will begin to implement the plan. Some changes will be apparent and can happen in a matter of days or weeks. Other changes and reforms will take months or even years of commitment and hard work to complete.

Through it all, our focus must remain on the indisputable fact that the future of our city is directly tied to the success of our students and schools. As a business leader, the economic case for this mission is exceedingly clear. With thousands of unfilled jobs and fierce competition for talent, the employers who power our local economy need our schools to both cultivate local talent and recruit workers and their families to come to our community. Successful schools are fuel for their businesses and our community’s economic prosperity.

But the case for this mission extends well beyond supporting our economy, in fact, it touches all aspects our quality of life. For example, retirees or residents without children in Manchester schools benefit from the correlation between successful schools and increased property values. Further, there are proven linkages between strong, successful schools and addressing important community issues all citizens care about, like strengthening neighborhoods, poverty and homelessness, substance misuse, and crime and public safety.

Truly, when it comes to the importance of the success of our students and schools, never has the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” been a more useful way to understand the importance of this effort to all members of our community. While so much has been accomplished thus far, so much more remains to be done — if you have not already, join us and become Manchester Proud.

Michael Skelton is president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber.