Opinion: Cafe experience should be worth every sip
I have learned over the years there are two types of meetings that really bring a large and energized crowd to public meetings.
The first is sex offender notification meetings, especially when a convicted sex offender is planning to move in close to a school.
The other is boundary line proposal meetings.
Organizers of public meetings to talk about the future of the local public school system however, struggle to get a crowd at all. The Elk River Area School District has developed a series of community cafe conversations they hope will break through this brick wall of apathy.
I hope it works.
They want to talk about the future of the schools with people who care about the future of the local school system.
There is no shortage of these people, but there are usually few who step up to the plate and attend public meetings.
The district wants to attract a diverse cross-section of people to find out what are their dreams. What are their concerns? What are the opportunities?
It’s not going to be a meeting where someone is going to stand at the front of the room and talk at people. Nor is it time to gripe about what’s wrong with the world with “Back when I was a kid,” speeches.
From what I have gathered it’s a venue to get ideas on the table of areas to explore as the Elk River Area School District prepares to embark on its next strategic planning effort. It has been five years since the last one was created, and a lot has changed in five years.
It’s clear to me people in the community — from common citizens to community leaders — have ideas worth considering. Two groups I am associated with right now have taken a hard look at some of the needs in the community, and they have some ideas about how they can help strengthen the community.
I am speaking of the Elk River Rotary and Elk River Area Early Childhood Coalition. I presume there are other groups out there asking the hard questions and developing wise responses. It’s time for the community and school district to sit in the same room and talk, rather than work in vacuums that slow progress down.
I suspect some common themes will emerge. I hope people are open to thinking of the big picture for not only students but also early education learners and adult learners. The more the district speaks to the entire community, the stronger this community will be.
And I don’t just mean geographically.
The district wants to educate, inspire and empower all learners. That will be a lot easier if they can attract and engage diverse crowds of people all over the school district.
Eventually there will be a boundary line meeting or two and probably even a notification meeting to rile up a crowd, but why wait to attend such emotionally-charged public meetings when you can weigh in on the entire future of the local public school system? — Jim Boyle, editor