Jeffco schools seek to engage, connect community

Community Engagement Task Force will report to board in September

Posted 8/6/18

A group of parents, community members and district staff has spent the summer trying to determine the best way to connect the larger Jefferson County community to its schools. “I think everyone has …

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Jeffco schools seek to engage, connect community

Community Engagement Task Force will report to board in September

Posted

A group of parents, community members and district staff has spent the summer trying to determine the best way to connect the larger Jefferson County community to its schools.

“I think everyone has a stake in schools and we have to make sure we are doing right by our students,” said Jim Earley, a task force member and Westminster resident with three children in Jeffco schools.

Earley is one of about 30 residents who expressed interest in brainstorming ways to improve relationships between the community and schools by working on the Community Engagement Task Force, one three task forces formed this summer to develop ideas to connect with the community at large and report back to the board of education later this year. The other two task forces are on school safety and changing school start times.

The Community Engagement Task Force is expected to present recommendations on Sept. 15 to Jeffco superintendent, Dr. Jason Glass.

The group was formed based on feedback Glass heard in the community while he was visiting various businesses and civic organizations during the 2017-18 school year, his first year on the job.

Disconnects in communication with the school district were the second-highest concern Glass heard from the community.

“We’re trying to build authentic engagements for students, and engaging the community is critical,” said Diana Wilson, executive director of communications for Jeffco Public Schools.

One of the group’s goals is to learn how to build relationships with retirees and families that don’t have children in Jeffco schools, as well as businesses and faith-based groups throughout the district. Glass also hopes the group and the district can redirect messaging from negative to positive in terms of talking about education.

Community member Rebecca Winning joined the task force as a way to give back and support a public education system she believes is “under siege.”

Public schools “are one of the fundamental democratic foundations on this nation . . . it’s equal education for everybody,” she said. “I think that’s a fundamental value.”

“One of my very favorite things is bringing people together to work on common outcomes,” said Winning, communications director for Jefferson County Public Library. “I think there is so much power in that.”

Winning will head a committee focused on connecting with Jefferson County’s business community. Its first task will be to learn what the county’s various chambers of commerce think about the schools, whether they are currently working with them and what barriers exist to such partnerships.

Two other committees within the task force will focus on connecting with community partners including seniors, nonprofits, local government and the faith-based community; and creating a volunteer system.

“If we can’t work together and communicate, then we can’t be strong,” said Elizabeth Panzer, an Arvada parent and task force member. “It’s about making the schools strong and connecting to their community.”

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