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What counts session generates community comments on schools

Mossie White
Some attendees at the "What Counts?" meeting listen to instructions concerning the project.

Sun Advocate publisher

Carbon district is trying something new this year to find out what people want from local schools and how to develop the education system in the area.

On Aug. 20, the district hosted an event called "What Counts?" More than 100 citizens from the area were invited to participate in the process of determining what is right and wrong with districts schools.

The district appeared to have cast a wide net to get people from all walks of life to the meeting as they assembled in the cafeteria at the district office.

The session was sponsored by the board of education.

Boardmember Wayne Woodward welcomed the guests to the district office and explained that the process Carbon was about to embark on. He said the process was one one that had been used in other places and was successful in helping district officials pin down what citizens want from their schools.

Woodward then introduced Mossie White, a former state school board association president who was the one that facilitated the meeting.

At a dozen tables, five to seven participants were seated along with a facilitator and a recorder at each station.

The facilitator was part of the group as a discussion leader, while the recorders were school district personnel who didn't give any input but just wrote on a chart the ideas the group came up with.

The first question the facilitator posed to the group was: What do you value most about your local public schools?

White asked groups to remain positive about their comments, which didn't mean there was not some heated discussion at some of the tables about the differences in the way individuals perceive the district's operations.

"Realize that you will not always agree with everyone at the table, but that isn't a bad thing," said White. "That can help us all to grow."

Each group then took about 20 minutes to come up with examples of what they valued. Topics that were posted on the walls after the group sessions included everything from quality teachers to athletics.

When the results of the first round were posted, everyone was requested to look at the posters on the walls and review what other groups thought.

According to the attendees, it was an eye opening experience for many participants as groups in their own mind set saw what others had been discussing.

Next the facilitator asked the group to list what they thought were the characteristics of a quality school.

"This is your chance to list some things that you may be dissatisfied with, but let's try and keep the way we list them positive," requested White.

The groups in the room then proceeded to list comments on chart paper in the same way.

The participants then were asked to pick six to eight of the topics they thought were most important.

Once again, the topics were hung on the wall, but this time, using colored stickers, the entire group was asked to vote for the eight ideas they thought were the most important.

Some of the ideas and concepts compiled as much as 25 percent of the vote from the group. Many of the most voted on concepts included teacher accountability with rewards for doing a good job, hiring qualified instructors, teamwork within the schools, emphasis on the basics in education and providing school lunches that are healthy.

Woodward then told the audience that the ideas they had generated would be analyzed and that the group would be called together again when the district had worked with the ideas and boiled them down to some solutions.

"We aren't ending this here," he said. "We will be asking you to participate further in this discussion."

Based on board members and administrators thoughts about the project it appears the ideas that come from the values and measures of quality lists will be used to develop concepts on how to better operate Carbon School District. The process was one that didn't seek agreement, but instead was looking to review the conversation that was going on at each table, to evaluate those thoughts and see how they could support the educational system.

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