District missed an opportunity to engage broad cross-section

As a parent with two school-aged children, a small business owner and a citizen concerned with improving educational outcomes in District 728, I read with interest the extensive coverage of the report of the strategic planning task force.

Last year, I was honored to be asked by Superintendent Bezek to participate in the Rogers “Community Café,” which served as the kick-off to the strategic planning process. At the end of the Community Café, district staff encouraged those in attendance to consider applying for appointment to the task force. I did so, thinking this would be an opportunity to learn and possibly contribute to this important goal-setting process, but was not selected. I was somewhat disappointed to have not been chosen, but felt the district was making a good faith effort to reach out to a diverse group of interested stakeholders.

Thus, when I read the headline “Task force included wide and varied walks of life” to describe the membership, I enthusiastically scanned the list of names to see how “wide and varied” the task force membership actually was. Unfortunately it was neither.

By my conservative classification, of the 71 members of the task force, 48 of them — or 68 percent — were either teachers, school district administrative staff or people in a leadership or volunteer role within the district. Seventy-five percent of the “Action Team” members had similar titles and 12 of the 13 “Measurement Team” members shared this designation. Only 13 of the 71 members, 18 percent were described as “parent(s).”

It is very disappointing that those with the most at stake — parents and the business owners who pay the overwhelming majority of taxes to fund district operations — were drastically shortchanged on task force membership.

Make no mistake; I believe every person who served on the task force shares a deep concern for our students and worked very hard to create a meaningful task force report. I personally know several people who served and their commitment to education is beyond reproach.

But once again District 728 missed an opportunity to engage a broad cross-section of residents to provide needed input. I encourage anyone with an interest in forging a more inclusive course for our district to consider seeking election to the School Board. Candidates can file for these important positions from May 22 through June 5 at the district offices. — Gregg Peppin, Rogers