'Vision Forward' eyes January for first SJSD get-together – News-Press Now

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A few passing clouds, otherwise generally clear. Low 29F. Winds light and variable..
A few passing clouds, otherwise generally clear. Low 29F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: November 2, 2021 @ 10:58 pm
Rod Wright of Creative Entourage LLC speaks Tuesday to the SJSD Community Engagement Team about Vision Forward, a working title adopted by the group for events to come, in which hundreds of people are meant to participate at a time.
Doug Van Zyl, superintendent of schools, answers questions from the Community Engagement Team on Tuesday at the Troester Media Center. The CET is setting up future Vision Forward gatherings, the first of which is set for Jan. 25, 2022.

Rod Wright of Creative Entourage LLC speaks Tuesday to the SJSD Community Engagement Team about Vision Forward, a working title adopted by the group for events to come, in which hundreds of people are meant to participate at a time.
Doug Van Zyl, superintendent of schools, answers questions from the Community Engagement Team on Tuesday at the Troester Media Center. The CET is setting up future Vision Forward gatherings, the first of which is set for Jan. 25, 2022.
Volunteers who have have committed to more than a year of setting up community listening sessions on the St. Joseph School District now have a name, and a date. The rest comes later by design.
Now titled “Vision Forward,” the public input process guided by Creative Entourage, LLC is to kick into high gear Jan. 25, 2022, at a time and location to be determined. Ideas suggested include the Bartlett Center on South 18th Street and the East Hills Shopping Center. Lots of space is to be needed; leaders made it plain that they do not consider a turnout of anything less than 100 to be a success. Up to 300 or perhaps more would be ideal, with participants arranged at tables of 6-8. 
Dave Hinde, who has been named co-chair of the Vision Forward Community Engagement Team along with Bob Miller and Teresa Simmons, said he is optimistic that turnout will be good and that people will trust the process. 
“We have to look forward, right? I mean, at the end of the day, we can’t continue to look to the past,” Hinde said. “We gotta look forward and see what we can be in the future. That’s really what this is about. I mean, I’m super positive about it, I’m super positive about the future. And that’s how we have to go about it.” 
Public education will remain a key part of the process. 
“The big elephant with any effort that comes up is district finances. I think there needs to be an overview of that,” CET member Steve Hofferber said. “A large portion of the community seems to think that if we just cut the superintendent’s salary, we can afford anything. Or they think we can get rid of half of the administrators.
“It goes further than that. People need to know where the money comes from.” 
At the end of the day, much discussion is expected about things like the number of buildings in operation within the district, what their purpose is and what resources are present there. The conversation stressed the importance of this being open-ended.
Joanne Snapp, CET member, mentioned how an outbreak of alarming social media messages in late October affecting the three high schools has called attention to student concerns. High schoolers may need to be included in the process to address this, she suggested. 
“I know what my kid comes home with and is concerned about at the end of the school day,” she said. “And it’s not their class size, right? It’s not that. They have legitimate concerns, things like psychological safety and physical safety in the schools … There are actual, real, on-the-ground problems. We might be very surprised to hear that students’ biggest concerns are things we never thought of.” 
Marcus Clem can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowClem
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