Duluth school district launches community outreach effortDuluth residents have more than 30 chances to tell the Duluth school district what its priorities should be as it faces serious financial difficulties in coming years.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
Duluth residents have more than 30 chances to tell the Duluth school district what its priorities should be as it faces serious financial difficulties in coming years.
A community outreach blitz has been scheduled for January and February, when each school will host meetings to hear what the district has done well, what it hasn’t and what it should focus on for the future.
In most cases, the meetings for parents and community members will be held separately because priorities often are different, Superintendent Bill Gronseth said. Several meetings also are planned at community centers throughout the city.
“I strongly believe that the voice of the community and the values and the beliefs and the principles of the community need to provide a road map for the school district,” he said. “If our schools aren’t providing what the community believes it should be providing, then we need to make some changes.”
School district officials announced the initiative during a news conference Thursday with representatives from the city of Duluth, the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, the United Way of Greater Duluth and Duluth Local Initiatives Support Corporation.
“We want to hear from you at the front end,” said Daniel Fanning, the city’s community relations officer, who encouraged residents to “get involved in the conversation.”
People at the meetings will break into small groups first and then come back to a larger group, said district climate coordinator Ron Lake, who will facilitate some meetings. Groups will be asked to reflect on the last five years and look ahead to the next five, and talk about things such as what they want from Duluth schools, what should be offered to students and the community and what shouldn’t, for example. The district has years of budget cuts behind it and faces another round of cuts this spring.
The school district’s current operating levy expires next year. The School Board considered asking voters for more money last election but decided against it in favor of holding a round of community conversations instead.
About 50 teachers and other staff members and parents were trained to help facilitate the meetings, which could take one to two hours depending on the number of people who attend. Gronseth hopes to have the results of the meetings —what participants choose as the most important to them —in April.
The community division that has lingered for some following the long-range facilities plan was one reason to have these meetings, Gronseth said.
“(The plan) was a way for us to address what needed to be done in this city for a couple of decades,” he said. “We’ve been talking about how to consolidate our schools and best serve our students for a long time … and it’s accomplished that.”
There are things that could have been done differently, he said, but he wants to try and unify residents, and talk about what’s happening inside of the schools.
“What we want for the future,” he said, for example, including more conversations about high academic standards, preparing for the workplace and college. “When they graduate from Duluth public schools, what do we want that to mean?”
To see a list of meeting sites and times go to www.duluth.k12.mn.us, where you can also share your thoughts if you can’t attend a meeting.
The school district also plans to include listings in the Duluth Budgeteer and its mailed newsletters. Contact Ron Lake at (218) 336-8700, ext. 2014, or firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to request language services, transportation assistance or child care for a session.
Organizations can schedule private meetings by calling (218) 336-8752.