Instead of asking residents to come to the school, Cobleskill-Richmondville will be going into the community in the next couple of weeks.
The effort to reach out for public opinion comes from Superintendent Lynn Macan, who wants to hear both good and bad.
What residents have to say will be a factor in how officials plan for the future, educationally and financially, Ms. Macan said.
She plans a series of meetings––“as many as it takes”––in Summit, Richmondville, Carlisle and others to get feedback around the district.
“Traditional processes––coming to board meetings, calling a meeting for people to come to school––don’t work any more,” Ms. Macan said. “Communication patterns need to change.”
The school panel will be small. Ms. Macan, a board member, another administrator and maybe a teacher.
She developed the idea after meeting with board members and administrators in planning sessions.
Part of the thrust is financial. Neither school officials nor residents expected taxes to jump because of equalization rates this year, and Ms. Macan wants to hear from residents while preparing next year’s budget.
“We want to know what resonates,” she said. “What do you hold sacred, and what are the things you may not value as much?”
C-R is entering a financial era “where it has to be give to get,” she added. In other words, to add an item to the budget, something else must come out.
But the meetings aren’t intended to be solely about finances. They’ll cover whatever people want to talk about.
“We work in a coaching environment where people have to hear both good and bad,” Ms. Macan said.
Besides getting feedback, Ms. Macan will be looking for other ways C-R can work with the community, including sharing services, contracts and employee training with businesses.
“If we re-connect with the community, we’ll find things that we can collaborate on that we don’t think about,” she said. “Some of these aren’t apparent right away.”
As school officials plan the community meetings, they’re also working on a second communications project.
Ms. Macan is putting together a large panel to act as an advisory group or sounding board.
Members will become knowledgeable enough to discuss school issues in casual settings in the community. C-R had similar “key communicators” years ago.
But the large group won’t necessarily include only those who always enthusiastically support the district, Ms. Macan said.
“If you just have people who say, ‘Oh, you’re doing a fine job,’ you don’t learn anything,” she said. “If you hear only one side, you’re not moving forward.”
Ms. Macan expects the large group to meet in the coming weeks, as the community meetings get under way.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said. “We’ll be talking to people about what matters most to them.”