"Celebrating Engagement" article

With the 2018-19 academic year in full swing, it is clear that this will be a record-breaking year for the district in terms of engagement. Coming off of a district Strategic Planning process that benefited from more than 200 district staff and community member participants, the strategic engagement continues in school-level planning conversations that mirror those that happened on the district level. Thank you to those who continue to give of their time and talents during these exciting conversations that are happening at our school and program sites, allowing us to move the district in a strategic direction.

Engagement in the Comprehensive Facilities Planning Process continues in full force as well, with almost 100 parents, staff and community members applying for and being named to Facility Planning Committees that are focused on the areas of learning spaces, community spaces, and physical conditions. This trio of teams will continue to meet through January and plans to present needs findings to the School Board at the January Work-Study meeting. It is anticipated that in February and March the Facility Planning Committee Master Plan will be developed to meet the needs identified by the committee and that community-wide engagement and feedback-gathering will happen in April and May. The facilities study and resulting recommendations will be based on capacity, current enrollment, projected enrollment, educational needs of the School District, alignment with the District's Strategic Vision, community recreation, special programs, school security, and financial stewardship.

Less formal avenues for engagement are "Coffee with Dr. K" (Dr. Kazmierczak) events hosted throughout the year. Community members are invited to stop by for an informal chat over a cup of coffee or tea at the Downtown White Bear Lake Caribou Coffee. There is no set agenda, so please feel free to order a drink from the barista and find me in the meeting room to join the conversation on any of the following dates/times: 7:30-8:30 a.m. on Jan. 15, 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 21, and 7:30-8:30 a.m. on April 16.

The engagement shown by community members who get involved with and support student activities is also strong. The Senior Activities Pass program, which grants senior community members (age 65+) with complimentary admission to student activities, has more than 400 participants. From packed sporting events to sold-out high school musical productions, our students benefit from the feeling of community that is created when community members enter our doors to cheer on our students.

Speaking of students, they are charting a course of engagement, as well. Middle school and high school grade-level representatives come together quarterly with district leaders for Superintendent Student Advisory Committee meetings. Students have had honest, genuine conversations about topics such as school safety and facilities. The students' insights have added an important dimension to the district's ongoing work of serving learners of all ages.

Other advisory committees also serve to meaningfully involve families and community members. Parent Leaders Network meetings allow parent leaders to network with other parents throughout the district and engage with district leaders. The Senior Advisory Council connects area seniors with district leadership. Program-specific parent advisory councils, such as Special Education Parent Advisory Council, Title Programs Parent Advisory and Indian Education Parent Advisory, also meet regularly and provide valuable insight and leadership.

Staff-focused engagement is buzzing this year as well, with the launch of an innovative approach meant to collect staff ideas that will improve the district. More than 140 ideas were submitted through the district's process, open to all staff members and coined "The Big Sleuth." During a design process facilitated by ideators in the spring of 2019, the ideas that received the highest number of votes will be examined and prepared for implementation. This innovative approach is one that is planned to be implemented as a student version in the future.

Innovative engagement is also found in our classrooms, perhaps most notably with our district's Career Pathways programs offered in the areas of Manufacturing, Construction, Health Care and Informational Technology. Embedded in coursework are opportunities for field experiences that are made possible through partnerships with community business leaders. These agreements have been an important driver of our district's success in offering increased opportunities for our students in expanding, high-demand career fields.

Whether your interest is in serving on a district-wide or school-level committee, attending a student event, connecting with a student-focused career opportunity, or simply becoming informed about what is going on in the district, we hope you will reach out and find an engagement opportunity that fits your interests. The strong connections community members have forged with the district, our schools, and our varied programs are certainly worth celebrating!

Dr. Wayne A. Kazmierczak, Superintendent of White Bear Lake Area Schools
Published Winter 2018/19