What needs to happen in our community to get the schools we want?
That’s the key question a new group focused on community engagement is hoping to get an answer to as it continues to interact with the citizens, community and business leaders, parents and other stakeholders.
The group, called “Forward Thinking” is a collaboration of the Greenfield, Greendale and Whitnall school districts, as well the City of Greenfield and Villages of Hales Corners and Greendale.
Over the last few months, administrative leaders of all six entities have been meeting every other week with the aim of building a stronger bond between public schools and the communities they are in.
Future Whitnall School Board member LuAnn Bird has played a key role in spearheading the effort after having been a part of similar initiatives in Montgomery, Ala. and Oshkosh in the past.
“This is a way to provide ongoing communication to the community,” Bird said. “There’s such a climate out there of how we can do more and what we can do more of.”
The initiative is built largely around community interactions, where through public conversations, the Forward Thinking leadership team can get a feel as to how people feel about their schools, what they love and what they’d like to change.
As those conversations take place, community agreements would be drafted and formal presentations of those agreements would be made to the respective school boards reflecting the communities’ expectations and commitment.
Finally, an action plan to address the expectations would be put in place, and action teams including school and community members would execute those plans.
“What kind of schools do we need to get the kind of community we want?” Bird said. “We hope it creates one voice in our community from our schools. … We’re already good, we know that but maybe we could be better.”
Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke said his city is certainly on board with the initiative.
“While still in the early stages, it has great promise,” he said. “I'm an enthusiastic supporter. I think we can better serve the kids, our citizens, and our communities by working even more closely together. We can retain who we are and in the process improve the options and choices for those that live here. It's hard to argue with that. I've always believed that if we didn't move toward initiatives locally, someone, somewhere else would.”
Among the possible results of the initiative could be the school districts regularly sharing best practices, the districts providing more offerings to students from all three districts rather than just their own, or school districts taking a cue from local business and manufacturers and tailoring curriculum to prepare students for those jobs.
“We are always interested in collaboration with our neighbors to find ways to improve programming and services and possible opportunities to share costs for them,” Greendale superintendent John Tharp said.
Per the Whitnall School Board’s suggestion, Bird said she would reach out to Franklin city leaders. Part of Franklin is a part of the Whitnall School District.