One of the state’s largest school districts is seeking the opinion of its community members on how to better run its school system as it confronts a changing landscape in education.
“We are taking these conversations very seriously. Overcoming the unique challenges of education today starts with listening to and learning from our community,” Lakota Superintendent Karen Mantia said.
Mantia introduced the program, also called “Community Conversation,” to the Lakota Board of Education this past summer. In July, the board approved a $40,000 contract with Citizens for Civic Renewal to help facilitate the discussions.
Each discussion begins with the question, “What do our kids need to succeed in life?”
“There is no levy on the ballot in November, so this isn’t about a levy,” Mantia said. “It’s about deepening the relationship with our residents, finding common ground on our core values around education and tackling our challenges head on as a community.”
Cuts in recent years totaling roughly $35 million – including just more than $10 million in reductions for the 2012-2013 school year – have provided many challenges for the school district.
Teachers layoffs, which have led to fewer electives and larger class sizes, have been a direct result of three failed tax levies in two years.
When the board decided to not go through with another levy this summer, its members voiced their concern about the uncertainty of the state budget and on not knowing what type of levy the community would support.
The board also showed interest in becoming more engaged with its community.
The new “Community Conversation” program, which are held by various community groups who volunteer to host sessions, could help the district become more engaged.
Currently, there are six “Community Conversations” scheduled in October. This week, the Parent Council will host a conversation Wednesday from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Lakota West High School and then on Thursday LEADS, Parents of Gifted Students, will host another session from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Lakota Central Office.
Other scheduled conversations include Oct. 15 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Cornerstone Church, Oct. 18 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Chesterwood Village, Oct. 24 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the West Chester Liberty Chamber Alliance office and Oct. 24 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lakota Central Office.
To host a “Community Conversation,” visit Lakotaonline.com for details.