Editorial: District plan lacks public input

Published 9:34 am Monday, November 15, 2010

The Albert Lea school board says it is making its decision on realignment of the grades and buildings in the district this evening based on a decision-making guiding document called district aims.

That’s well and good; however, how much input did the district residents — you know, the people who pay for these schools — have in the creation of the district aims?

The truth: Not much.

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The district aims is comparable to the city’s comprehensive plan. The Albert Lea City Council uses its comprehensive plan in making decisions that affect the future of the city. The comprehensive plan took about a year to form and had loads upon loads of input from city residents.

The districts aims had little input from district residents. There were no public workshops. There were no invitations to the district residents soliciting their feedback. The district aims was formed by the superintendent with feedback from the board, staff and a few selected community members. The board then approved the aims in January. The district aims, however, is not really a document that can serve as the guiding interest of the people who pay for and support these schools. It is not a mandate.

If the school district wants community support, it needs to start over. It needs to have a guiding document that has wide support and input of the district residents.

While it need not take a year like the city’s comprehensive plan, the school board and school administrators do need to make a boisterous effort to get public involvement in the crafting of a guiding document.

We’re talking more than posting a blog entry or sending notes home for parents. The parents are only one segment of the district’s residents. Reach out to all portions of the community — from students to senior citizens.

Without a solid decision-making document, the school board and district leaders will continue to make important decisions based on a weak foundation.