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B-E school residents share ideas: Safety a top priority

Consultants from ICS Consulting facilitate a listening session in the gym of the Brandon School Wednesday afternoon. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

In a Top Ten list of biggest needs for the Brandon-Evansville School District, safe and secured entrances were the top priority.

Other items included updated technology, handicapped accessibility, additional classrooms, energy efficiency, one building site, long-term facility maintenance plan, classroom space and size, a clean, happy and healthy school, and parking.

The list was made Wednesday afternoon during the first of four listening sessions to take place within the district in the coming weeks. The second session took place that evening in Evansville.

The school board hired ICS Consulting to help the district assess its facility issues and needs. As part of the firm’s services, the consultants are holding listening sessions to address questions regarding what the community, staff and students think are the district’s biggest needs.

At the first session in the Brandon gym, three consultants from ICS, Lori Christensen, Lynn Dyer and Glen Chiodo, led the session with roughly 50 people in attendance.

Community members sat at tables with sticky notes and markers in front of them to write out their answers to questions asked by the consultants. The consultants would then go around, pick up the sticky notes, read them aloud and post them on large sheets of paper. There were between 13 and 31 responses to each of the questions with the average being about 25.

During the hour and a half session, there were seven questions asked to the attendees:

  • Why are you here?
  • What are the great things happening in the district?
  • What are the biggest challenges?
  • If you could write a newspaper headline 10 years from now about the district, what would it say?
  • How do you want the district to communicate with you?
  • What are the district’s biggest needs?
  • What advice would you give to administrators?

When it came to challenges, a theme formed among the answers -- whether the two communities could come together and work toward what is best for students and families. Other challenges included aging buildings, safety and security, financial impact of a new school(s), two sites or one, and facilities that can meet the needs of the students.

As for why people were in attendance, answers included because they care about the school district and community, to add input, to hear what is happening, to be informed, to be part of the solution and because they want what is best for the school and the two communities.

An excellent, caring, friendly and educated teaching staff, as well as small class sizes, good education, sense of community, great family feel and new administration were among some of the great things happening in the school district, according to the attendees.

The most common answer for what a headline would say in 10 years was that the B-E school district was growing and thriving and its students are doing so well academically that they have the highest test scores in the state.

The top four ways community members want the district to communicate with them is through mailings, the district’s website, emails and newspaper articles.

More than half of the people at the session shared their advice to school administrators with listen, communicate, use common sense and work smarter, not harder as some of the key pieces shared. Other advice included to build one school because it’s more efficient, share information not opinions, be open minded, do what’s best for the students and community, be respectful of the taxpayers and to just do what is best for all.

The next listening sessions are scheduled for:

  • Monday, Sept. 10, from 7:30-9 p.m. in the Brandon school gym.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 12, from 7:30-9 p.m. at the Evansville Senior Center.

The goal of the firm and the school board is to gather as much information from district residents to incorporate a plan that will best meet the needs of the district, according to the firm.

Child care services will be available during the sessions at each location.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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