March 17, 2022
DEFINITION: favoring innovation and development; planning for the future
Any strong city has a strong educational foundation. But what really sets a city apart – and really makes it uncommon – is when that foundation is built around the thoughts, opinions and ideas of the families and leaders who call that city home … now, and in future generations.
In St. Joseph, creating the educational opportunities that lead the next generation forward is definitely uncommon business. For the past several years, repeated town hall style meetings and community-led initiative groups have helped guide the path for innovations and changes. In 2022, a new series of community engagement meetings called Vision Forward has brought the deep thinkers and both right and left brains together around the table. Sessions are held at various community locations, are open to the public, and involve discussions around key questions.
Teresa Simmons, Co-Chair of the Vision Forward Community Engagement Team, and team member of Mo-Kan Regional Development, Inc., is one of those forward-thinkers.
“There hasn’t been a time since my girls were in school that I haven’t somehow been involved with the school district in one way or another,” says Simmons. “The school district is the heartbeat of a community, and how we support it – not just with taxes, but with all voices promoting it and the staff of our buildings feeling valued – this is what is on display.”
Community planning is also a focus of the sessions. Ultimately, a long-range plan will be formed for the St. Joseph School District that reflects the community’s priorities for future operations. Members of the district administration team are also helping direct the process, alongside the Community Engagement Team, with assistance from a professional community engagement firm.
The dialogue is lively, spanning from how to honor educators to how to integrate curriculum to surrounding businesses and future career needs. When it’s time to discuss solutions to challenges, data and information is presented by district administrators. Time is allotted for groups and tables to complete an activity based around the information presented, with topics like “what is surprising about the district” to “what would you like to learn more about going forward?”
“Educating students and having them take pride in their schools, their friends/peers and their teachers carries over to them choosing to live and work here, and raise their own families here,” says Simmons. “There is success every day for students in these buildings, but also real challenges. We want to focus on both, as an entire community.”
As the sessions unfold, Simmons says the goal is also to learn more about the public vision for the future of the St. Joseph School District.
“If we can learn what the community envisions, the cost can be identified and the plan created. We are looking forward to the community being invested in this process so we can find new solutions and support our district.”
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