BROWN DEER - Superintendent Deb Kerr has helped develop a strategic plan for the school district before, in 2010-11.
But she said that effort "did not represent all elements of the community," saying parents were underrepresented. So she made an extra effort to increase participation in the May 13 "community conversation" on the district's future goals.
Kerr was pleased that about 85 people participated in the event at Brown Deer High School.
"I think people felt engaged and inspired, and happy to be part of the process," she said. "There is a great representation of our school community. We have teachers, administrators, parents and village trustees. These people are committed."
As part of the effort to boost turnout, day care was provided by special education teacher Leah Henderson and seven middle school students. All were volunteers.
It was hard to miss Kerr's enthusiasm as she scurried among the participants. She wasn't alone.
"I'm excited to help with this session," said Alexandria Millet, a senior at the high school. "I'm sharing experiences of what worked and didn't work as a Brown Deer student. I've made great relationships with teachers and students, and hope I can help leave a positive legacy."
Geoffrey Costigan, the father of a kindergartener, remarked that "it's a lot to give up a Saturday morning." But he said that "interest in making positive changes is consistent, a motivation to do something."
The district also surveyed families in the village and community groups, including businesspeople, clergy and members of the Brown Deer Women's Club. Those surveyed saw class sizes, teacher retention and discipline as the three top financial challenges for the school system. The two things most often mentioned as desirable additions for the school system were expanded foreign language classes and greater emphasis on vocational and life skills.
Drew Howick, a consultant who helped plan the program, said a major goal is to make sure high school graduates are "college, career and community ready." Toward that goal, survey respondents listed communication and work ethic as the skills graduates will most need.
Dolores Parr is the mother of two Brown Deer graduates and the grandmother of current students.
"I was surprised to see the number of people; I was glad to see the interest," she said. "At my table, there were two teachers, two parents, two students and myself. There was a very good mix, a lot of viewpoints that made for interesting conversation. I hope it wasn't a one-time event."
Parr said she hopes the strategic plan will "help students achieve more and learn better. I think we kind of trail behind other North Shore schools, but there's no reason. Our students are just as smart and motivated as any. We need them to have the best teachers, curriculum and extracurriculars so they can excel."
Kerr said the district will survey teachers for their priorities later this month. Those results and community responses will be tied in this summer with enrollment and facilities studies being developed, and Kerr intends to have the strategic plan ready by fall.
"There's a lot of great things happening here, but we also have challenges," the superintendent said. "The only way to meet the needs of the kids is to work together."