Community Conversations Embrace Student Voice

Community Conversations Embrace Student Voice
Posted on 01/11/2018
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Community Conversation with Students“A great education should be student-centered. To achieve this, the district and building leaders must listen to our students’ voices. They are why we do what we do.” This belief by Superintendent Matthew Miller has brought a new group to the district’s long standing program, community conversations.

Community conversations and coffee chats have provided a wealth of information to district leaders this year about what is working well at Lakota, and what could be improved upon. Miller, along with school board members and district leaders, have attended around 40 meetings of this nature since August.

Every month, community members have been invited to join Miller at informal gatherings called coffee chats. They are an opportunity for attendees to ask questions, share ideas and hear first hand about what is happening in the district, currently and in the future.

Now in its sixth year, more formal community conversations are led by a third-party facilitator and focus on two-to-three specific questions. Every staff member has had the opportunity to attend one of these meetings this year. In addition, more targeted groups have been invited to participate in conversations on specific topics. For example, special needs staff, parents of special needs children, LEADS and faith leaders in our community.

Another unique community conversation was held with Lakota students at both East and West high schools. Listening to student voice is a priority for Miller and district leaders. “Kids are the most honest with their answers,” said Miller. “They tell it like it is and we need to hear that.”

Following the traditional format of community conversations, the students were asked to sit in small groups, preferably with people they do not know well. This offers the opportunity to hear a new opinion and get to know their peers.

A common theme among both high schools was the desire to delve deeper into a topic and not just memorize facts. The students want to have a deeper understanding as opposed to learning snippets they will be tested on and then forget. They also value the relationships they build with their teachers and the opportunity to collaborate with classmates.

The district has taken to heart what has been said at this year’s conversations. In fact, the common themes of all day kindergarten, increased specials for elementary schools and the request for more integrated technology has resulted in new initiatives for the 2018-19 school year.