by Rachel Minske
As Elk River Area School Board Vice Chair Jamie Plantenberg-Selbitschka put it, feedback is a gift.
The board will soon be looking for more of such offerings; by Tuesday, April 18 community members and district staff will be invited to complete a survey that evaluates the board in several topics that will, in turn, help the board set goals of its own.
“It will be a 360-degree reflection,” Plantenberg-Selbitschka said of the survey.
The survey will be available to the public on the school district’s website and via district social media accounts.
A private consultant has been hired to help develop questions for the survey, which will be available to the public. The data from the survey will help give the board a good idea about what it’s doing well and what it needs to improve on, Plantenberg-Selbitschka said.
She added the district has a record of “good” communication with the community, like when the Elk River Area School Board approved boundary changes in December to allot for growing student bodies and a need for more space. Aside from public work sessions and meetings, the district approved the formation of a 35-member facilities usage committee composed of community members to help steer the board in the right direction. Survey responses from the public were a large part of the process, too.
The district also communicated well in its search to hire to a new superintendent, Plantenberg-Selbitschka said. Interviews with finalists were public and the community was invited to open sessions where they could ask questions of the candidates and provide feedback to the board.
Community members involved with district decisions – including the boundary changes – have been amazed to learn of all the different services offered through the schools, said Director of Community Engagement and Community Education Cory Franson.
“To really, truly understand how a district succeeds, it takes peeling back layers of the onion,” Franson said. “I would absolutely agree that we are a top performing school district, our test scores show that. We’re as lean and efficient as the top 25 schools in the state. We are a high-performing district, and how we share that message is something that we’re trying to do.”
There are other tools in place that help the district with communication and keep staff accountable, Plantenberg-Selbitschka said. She identified Let’s Talk as one of them. The application, featured on the district’s main website, enables users to select a talking point from a list of broad topics such as transportation, community education and health. There are trending topics to weigh in on, too, including weather delays, crisis and lockdown procedures, and kindergarten registration.
Let’s Talk users can submit a question, comment, compliment, concern or suggestion through the app.
“As they submit their questions, it automatically sends those requests to people we’ve identified as key stakeholders in that area,” Franson said.
The evaluation survey is expected to be open for two weeks and Plantenberg-Selbitschka said responses will be reviewed within the next four to six weeks.
by Rachel Minske