The prelude to a series of conversations that could change the way the municipalities of Greenfield, Greendale and Hales Corners interact with their school districts played out last week.
The kickoff celebration for Forward Thinking Communities, lead by Whitnall School Board member LuAnn Bird, happened at Thursday's Concert in the Gardens series at Boerner Botanical Gardens. The group signed up nine people to take part in conversations about their school districts' role in the community.
The group aims to host conversations with members of local clubs, residents with and without children in the districts, school board members and municipal officials throughout fall and winter. By the end of December, Bird hopes that each community will have either a steering team or advisory group that will develop a measurable plan to guide administrators. Each municipal government already has agreed to participate.
While the exact topics of the conversations will be fleshed out based on public input, the nature of the conversations is set. Goals and ground rules that will govern the conversations have been laid out. The rules focus on keeping the discussion on track, listening and reducing arguments within the conversation.
Many questions also are laid out. Questions such as "How would we like to define or describe our school to others?" and "What needs to happen in our community to get the schools we want?"
One of the main goals of the group, Bird said, is to connect community members to their school district.
The current lack of connection between is a problem, she said, citing school district elections as a specific problem.
"There's a big mistrust in government, so if we can bridge that gap it's very helpful to our community and schools," she added. Informing the public about the activities of their local school district is another goal of Forward Thinking Communities.
She also wants the group to explore resource sharing between the Greendale, Greenfield and Whitnall school districts.
On thinking forward
Bird modeled the group after one she helped create in Mobile, Ala., called Believe It.
According to Bird, the group helped move the district from having only 21 percent of schools making annual yearly progress to 87 percent in three years.
After its first year, Forward Thinking will track its progress and report it. The question-taking and steering process will be ongoing.
"We're doing it because we have good schools, but we know we have challenges that need to be addressed," Bird said. "We don't have failing schools but we want better schools, we want extraordinary schools — and that's why we are doing it."
On the web
Learn more about Forward Thinking Communities at FTCommunities.wordpress.com.
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