MAHOMET — The Mahomet-Seymour school district is kicking off “MSEngages” as a new community engagement initiative, board of education members heard at an April 1 study session.
Starting in about August or September, efforts will begin in earnest to gather input from community members and district staff on facilitating communication with the school board.
In January, the village of Mahomet and the Mahomet-Seymour school board held a joint meeting to hear a report on a demographic study and enrollment projection. In February, background information about community engagement and strategic planning was shared with the board of education, according to a summary provided to the board at the April 1 session.
In March, a special school board meeting focused on the “why” and “what” of community engagement. Late that month, board members Lori Larson and Merle Giles, along with Superintendent Lindsey Hall, met with Patrick Rice from the Illinois Association of School Boards to discuss the topic.
The school board is interested in building trusting relationships; listening to different perspectives and voices; obtaining feedback and direction for the board; engaging in and maintaining two-way communication; and providing opportunities for the community to learn more about the district, according to goals presented at the study session.
School leaders want to listen and learn; offer a board and community vision for the future that shows an alignment of values between the board and community and staff; and offer information on a specific plan for the next several years that coordinates resources, among other goals .
Next steps planned are:
— Conduct two community meetings and at least one staff meeting to elicit feedback on issues including teaching/learning, facilities, finance and culture/engagement.
— Collect feedback via a small but effective number of questions that will be determined and honed this summer.
“Just having a targeted amount of information, being three to five or six things, is what you’ve got to start with,” Larson said.
— Place participants in small table groups, with a recorder.
— Ask the IASB to facilitate the process.
“The IASB is a neutral party that can come in,” Hall told the board on April 1.
Those who participate will be provided with an overview of topics to form a “baseline” from which to work and answer questions, according to Hall’s presentation to the board. Meetings will occur at “neutral” locations, such as churches, the Cornbelt Fire Protection District meeting room and other off-school-district sites in the community.
The meetings will be open to the public, but participants must be residents of the Mahomet-Seymour school district. Parents, staff and community members will be given a survey ahead of time to offer information to the board of education ahead of the community engagement process.
In the long term, school leaders plan a “State of the District” day or meeting to occur in future years each March, starting in 2020, with a goal of cementing the practice of communicating and engaging with the community.
District leaders decided that time this summer is needed to prepare for MSEngages.
“We really thought it would be really best supported when school starts up,” Hall noted.
Another portion of the effort will be to form a District Learning Team that aims to improve communication and engagement with the community. Staff, parents and community members will form the team; district staffers will be informed about the process on the May 15 early school day release date.
School board and administrative leaders plan to make MSEngages a long-term project.
“What I heard loud and clear (is that) this has got to be something that is just ongoing,” Hall said.
School board member Lance Raver, who did not receive enough votes in the April 2 election to remain on the board, said at the April 1 meeting that an important factor is to handle the project properly to begin with.
“There’s a lot to do. I really like that IASB and Patrick specifically (will help),” he said. “If we take our time and take a few extra weeks, it’s going to get done right. Getting it done right the first time is going to save a whole lot of time.”
Larson said she looks forward to the process.
“I’m very excited about it. I think it’s great,” she said.