District 99 Aims to Improve Community Outreach with New Open House Events
The school board will consider holding three "Recognition and District 99 Open House" events during the 2012-13 school year.
The Community High School District 99 Board of Education will consider holding three open house events this year as a way to improve community outreach and engagement.
During the district's Aug. 20 school board meeting, Superintendent Mark McDonald and Communications Director Jill Browning presented a proposal for three combined "Recognition and District 99 Open House" events that would allow the public to interact with the board and administration.
On three Mondays during the 2012-12 school year—Nov. 12, March 4 and May 13—the board would hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. that would include a student recognition ceremony followed by the opportunity to socialize informally with District 99 officials. Community members would also be able to visit different booths, such as "facilities" or "student learning," to learn about different aspects of the district.
McDonald said the open houses would replace "Bagels with the Board," a poorly-attended, two-hour event held on seven Saturdays during the school year.
"Our goal is to try to create a forum to allow the board to interact with the public in a different way than we normally do," McDonald said. "This was based in part on our findings from our communications survey that suggested to us that while some community members viewed Bagels with the Board as an opportunity to meet with the board on an informal basis, the support for that activity was relatively low ... So we began thinking about other opportunities that we might create."
Because the recognition ceremonies are typically well-attended by students, families and community members, the open houses would allow the district to capitalize on an already captive audience.
"It's clearly a way to get people there that would be interested in education and talking to the board," McDonald said.
The new format would eliminate the September recognition ceremony, which is typically the least attended ceremony of the year, McDonald said. It would also reduce the length of board meetings that were previously slated to include student recognitions.
Board Member Michael Davenport said he thinks the new format makes more sense, considering the poor attendance of past initiatives.
"I've been critical of Bagels with the Board in the past, not in terms of the concept, but just in terms of the outcome, and knowing that we've had so few people attend those," Davenport said. "Being able to eliminate a once-a-month obligation for at least two of the board members and administration—going some place and spending a couple of hours and no body showing up—this just seems like a real winner and has my enthusiastic support."
The Nov. 12 ceremony would be held at Downers Grove North, and the May 13 event would be held at Downers Grove South. The location for the March 4 event has not been determined.
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