Strategic plan well received

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Paris Union School District 95 administrators and staff unveiled the district’s draft of its two-year strategic plan this past week, using the suggestions made during a community meeting in March.

The local district and its school board members regularly welcome comments during the monthly meeting — as do all the Edgar County districts. What made the community meeting special was the emphasis by Superintendent of Schools Jeremy Larson to encourage parents, grandparents and community members to make their voices heard.

Unfortunately, parents or community members who attend school board meetings speak — for the most part — about a problem. The community meeting allowed parents to offer both positive suggestions and concerns without identifying themselves. Those attending simply filled out index cards at any one of the 16 subject tables and dropped them into a bucket. Larson then compiled every comment so that members of the planning committee could study them.

The presentation of Monday’s draft included items definitely from the community outreach meeting. When I interviewed some of the 158 persons who attended the meeting, a couple of parents noted their concern about their middle school children who eat hot meals often were left hungry — not because they didn’t like what was being served but that portions were too small. In the wellness and safety section of the draft plan — sure enough — included by the district was “will investigate and provide feedback on alternative lunches and increased portions.”

One of the areas I suggested at the community meeting — obviously along with some parents — was the need to include the Mayo school chorus in the school day. “Mayo will investigate ways to rearrange the schedule to provide students an opportunity to take choir and band at the same time.” 

It’s no secret I am a supporter of the arts. When I was at Mayo, we were lucky enough to have a general music class and chorus was the last hour of the day. I’m not na├»ve enough to think those days will ever come again, but adding chorus to the school day will be a huge boost to other arts programs —including drama.

There was concern expressed by parents about the coordination between Mayo, Paris Junior League and Paris High School basketball programs. Larson said these concerns were specifically about the sixth graders and the sixth grade basketball program at Mayo. A meeting is planned about these concerns.

In talking to the superintendent about the district’s approach to receiving comments from parents and district residents, Larson said he came up with the idea of a community meeting as an outreach. “I just wanted to get people involved,” he said.

Another area brought up during the community meeting and this past week was moving polling places from Memorial and Wenz Schools. Some of the parents expressed a concern about safety concerns on days the schools are open for voting. “We’re going to investigate it,” Larson said.

Each person attending the meeting where the draft plan was unveiled received a red pen and a copy of the plan. “We wanted people to mark it up and tell us what they thought,” Larson explained. 

The draft plans were collected at the end of the meeting. Nearly all of them had red marks and written notes concerning the plan. Larson said he was pleased with the participation and the openness of the community to get involved and share their thoughts.

It will be exciting and interesting to read the final plan and watch Larson and the Paris 95 administrators, faculty and staff check off the completed goals.