You see, the type of changes we have to make are going to take optimism and enthusiasm. It's also going to take public confidence. This can only be gained by involving the public voice from the very beginning.
Anyhow, as we were returning to the cabin from our morning fishing expedition, it dawned on me that right there on our U.S.currency is the answer to my dilemma. E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. You see we've been going about this all wrong.
For example, the ONE District facilities master planning process was long and drawn out. It involved a planning committee made up of individuals from across the community who put in many, many hours over many months of time to work with BLDD to design multiple scenarios for our district. The scenarios were then presented to the public multiple times for their input. A district-wide phone survey was done to gather even more public input. The scenarios shifted and re-shifted, then a final presentation was made to the Board for their consideration. Information Gathering, Recommendation to the Board, Decision. And yet....many still feel that their voices were not heard.
I think that going forward to the next big decisions with regard to the Diversity Policy and a broader redistricting effort, we must take the process we used for the facilities planning and strive to make it better still. There has been MUCH improved transparency as of late and the effort to include the public was significantly better than previous attempts in past years, however, there is always room for improvement.
I think that perhaps what we need to do going forward is:
- START with gathering community and teacher input through district-wide surveys by phone, focus groups, social media, email and snail mail. We need to analyze and utilize that data to spend time focusing on what the public wants, not what their assumed wants are.
- Next, we need to go out and gather a committee of diverse community members who can act as not only representatives, but also liaisons to their neighborhoods, organizations, PTOs, etc. In this way, we can involve community members in a cohesive effort in which their voices are heard in a transparent fashion BEFORE any recommendations or decisions are made. These meetings must be held in the open and recorded to serve as public record every step of the way. The information must flow both ways.
- The committee must be given a clear directive from the community and not put into a position where they are trying to determine what the community wants. They can then focus on achieving their goal, not trying to reach a shifting goal line.
- Finally, a recommendation can be made to the Board for their consideration. To go out of order may give the perception and feel that the public isn't being heard or worse, ignored.