Meeting Recaps Visioning for Lakota's Future

Feb. 26 Meeting Recaps Visioning for Lakota's Future
Posted on 02/28/2020
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On Feb. 26 members of the community gathered at Lakota West Freshman to hear the district’s most recent update on the Master Facilities planning (MFP) process. 

Attendees heard from Superintendent Matthew Miller, Chief Operations Officer Chris Passarge and Educational Visioning Planner Tracy Richter. “We’ve spent the past month meeting with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) to update our building conditions and holding focus groups to hear from our community about what they think education should look like in Lakota,” said Passarge.

In December, Lakota’s Board of Education approved a resolution to enter into
Ohio’s Expedited Local Partnership Program (ELPP) through the OFCC. Lakota is eligible to begin receiving partial funding from the state for all projects that are completed in the final Master Facilities Plan from this point forward.

As part of the agreement with the OFCC, Lakota is required to work with a visioning consultant to explore what education should look like in the coming years. And community input plays a critical role. “We appreciate the feedback we heard during our meetings with the focus groups,” said Passarge. Led by Richter, students, staff, parents and community members met in small groups and also came together for a large meeting during the process. Richter also met with district leaders and board members.

Richter’s message echoed his presentation to the
Lakota Board of Education Feb. 24 work session. “The pedagogies of education change so rapidly and our buildings don’t have the ability to do that,” Richter explained at Wednesday’s meeting. “But part of that is now understanding where we want to go with education and what fits Lakota Schools and the educational model you want to deliver.” Topics discussed with the focus groups were wide-ranging, including local and global demographics, the process of learning and the role of the future teacher. “We need to adapt to change, not just in facilities but in our educational thinking and the approaches that we take to education.”

Each group was asked to describe future challenges of education, the role of the teacher and to complete the sentence “In Lakota Schools, students and teachers will…” The answers were very similar.

Mental health and safety topped the list of future challenges, with students concerned about poverty and the gaps between the “haves and have nots.” Richter challenged the audience to think about how to include the clothing drives and food drives the district currently supports into the MFP.

Richter explained that the role of the teacher has shifted in today’s schools. Information can be found from a variety of sources - not just from the teacher as in years past. Today, and in the future, the groups believe that the teacher role should be as a facilitator, communicator and content knowledge resource. The groups also agreed that finding the best teachers in the future is key. “You’re going to be competing with every school district in the state,” said Richter. “How do you do that with the educational model that you have, with the administration, with the community support and the facilities and the environment they work in?”

Collaboration, a positive learning environment and a focus on the students through
personalized learning are themes that emerged from all of the participants. When Richter met with district administrators for the first time, he pressed them about the definition of personalized learning and what Lakota believes. “It’s in everybody in this country’s strategic plan but nobody really knows what it is,” surmised Richter. But then he explained that he continued to question and press the administrators. “And guess what?” he asked the community. “This district knows what it means.”

“It means getting down to the student level. Measuring progress and gains and lack of gains. And how that helps them and personalizing a plan that gets them to the
(Portrait) of a Graduate that you demanded out of Lakota Schools,” explained Richter. 

After working with the individual focus groups over a two-day period, Richter brought everyone together for a final session. He began by asking what personalized learning means to them. Student choice beginning with our youngest learners, opportunities, including real world learning experiences, and flexibility in space, schedule and time topped the list. Richter encouraged the participants to think outside the box, get rid of every reason to say no to an idea and offer up suggestions about how to make it work.

The benefit of thinking creatively is to use the facilities for more than just a regular school day. “It’s a way to expand the capacity of your buildings without really having bricks and mortar,” Richter noted.

Richter also asked the focus groups to list things that make Lakota great, challenges that need to be overcome and obstacles standing in the way. Teachers and staff were the number one item when asked about what makes Lakota great. Technology, the administration’s vision, diversity and opportunities rounded out the list.

Class size, the need for more mental health supports and poverty were all listed as challenges. All of the groups believe that money and funding and gaining the community’s support are obstacles standing in the way. “Creating a Master Facilities Plan is important. We need to be prepared for the needs of our facilities and how they impact the education of our students,” said Miller. “We want our community to not only support this process, but be a part of it. That’s why we’re holding community meetings, focus groups and using ThoughtExchange to gather feedback and answer questions.”

Richter believes that every school district should have an educational facilities master plan in hand to be more proactive in the investment of its buildings. With Lakota’s facilities valued at more than $400 million, it is crucial that the district have a plan in place. “It is critical that we have a firm grasp on what is required in upcoming years to keep our buildings in working order
and updated with spaces that align with our long-term vision for teaching and learning at Lakota," agreed Passarge.

The district’s second ThoughtExchange for community feedback launched following Wednesday’s meeting asking the question: How should WE adapt Lakota’s facilities to best meet the future needs of our students?
Click here to participate in this online survey and be sure to return to the platform periodically to rate the thoughts of other community members. The exchange is open through March 13.