In visiting with residents across the district, I often ask the question, “What are your priorities or concerns for our district?” Frequently, I hear the response, “My children are grown, or I don’t have children yet, so I’m not sure.” I love this conversation because I really enjoy sharing with residents how important they are to our schools and how important strong schools are for our entire community.
First, one of the common misconceptions about residents who do not currently have students in our district is that they only care about their property values and taxes. At last evening’s forum this was repeated several times by candidates. I disagree!! Residents do deeply care about our schools and many are our grandparents, volunteers, and financial supporters beyond taxpayers. Additionally, many would like to be involved but there isn’t a clear “On Ramp” to get involved.
When I communicate with residents, I love to share how important strong schools are to our community. My work on the Brooklyn Park Budget Advisory Commission has given me a lens across our city departments, activities, and priorities. I see firsthand that strong schools attract residents to live and work, both families with children and without children, and I see how it positively interacts with and supports city priorities to improve the quality of life for all residents. Additionally, when businesses consider locating to or developing a new site in a community, quality schools are important as they evaluate the attractiveness for their potential current and future employees. Businesses provide growth and jobs for community members and enable a positive cycle for cities to thrive. Additionally, strong schools with engaged students is correlated to lower youth crime rates. These are just a few examples of the benefits that all residents share in when we have strong schools.
Second, when I communicate with residents, I emphasize how valuable their engagement is and can be. When residents volunteer in our classrooms and mentor our students, they create a positive support structures for many students who may not have them. They also provide their life experiences that help broaden students’ ability to envision their own possibilities for success and potential future career paths. Residents and business stakeholders participate in career fairs, are guest speakers in classrooms, financially support our schools with grants and giving, provide internships, and enable curriculum through hands on experiences.
Unfortunately, there isn’t always a clear path in for residents to volunteer and participate in our schools. One simple solution is to create an online mechanism for volunteers. Currently volunteering is through individual site locations. We have a growing young professional population as well as an aging and retiring population who are looking to be involved, but don’t know where to start or what the opportunities are. Let’s make it easy for them to get involved! Let’s communicate through vehicles they will see instead of primarily district publications and internal sites.
Finally, yes, certainly fiscal stewardship is important, but it’s important to all stakeholders in our district. All residents want to see our educational investments result in strong outcomes for our students and want to be confident that our district is using financial and other resources wisely.
When we consider our residents and stakeholders, lets engage everyone in driving positive solutions and outcomes for each and every school in our district. I look forward to many more conversations to emphasize this message!