For most of my career, I have been engaged in addressing challenges in communities I call home. Some challenges tend to be straight forward as there is wide-spread agreement for what the outcomes should be, like improving streets or attracting good-paying jobs. Other challenges are more complex, such as neighborhood redevelopment or deciding how the School District should proceed to create an action plan for its future. When there is no agreement on desired outcomes, there is a need for engagement of and input from the community.
The most recent defeat of the proposed School District bond issue has brought us to a point where we must ask, what is the future of the St. Joseph School District? Where are we going and how are we to get there? It’s time to ask the residents of St. Joseph, what are the outcomes they wish to see? These are big questions that cannot be answered by a few, no matter how well meaning they may be.
We need a process for community engagement and input that seeks opinions, ideas and possible solutions with the goal of establishing a plan for the District’s future. In the months ahead you will be hearing about a community-led planning process to engage residents in discussions that will focus on improving the quality of education in St. Joseph. While the effort will be facilitated by a group of consultants it will be led by interested residents. It will involve multiple meetings discussing topics that lead us to decisions on how we improve educational outcomes of students. While the condition of existing buildings, the potential for school closures and building new schools may be part of the discussion, these topics will only relate to how each impacts and improves education in St. Joseph. The goal is to have a plan of action that improves the quality of education in St. Joseph.
The Chamber of Commerce with the assistance of Mosaic Life Care will pay for the cost of the consultants and the development of the plan. Why us? Because improving educational outcomes and having a successful School District are the most important local issues facing St. Joseph employers. I would offer that businesses cannot be successful and, for that matter, our community cannot be successful without a strong, high-achieving School District. I would also add that the District cannot be successful without the support of the community. It is really that simple.
The challenges facing the St. Joseph School District requires a community solution. It starts with asking residents what they want. The community engagement process will provide us the opportunity, now we must commit to being part of the solution. It takes a community!