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Advisers take lead in Carlton 'visioning' process

Residents, school staff and community advisers discuss what the Carlton School District would look like in a perfect world, with no limitations, during the community meeting June 26 at Carlton High School. Jana Peterson/

When facilitator Ann Glumac told the crowd of about 75 people to imagine the education of Carlton students "with no limits," some responded with truly out-of-the-box thinking.

One person suggested consolidating all of the county's schools, and designating each a different "area of excellence." One school could specialize in vocational education, another on arts, another on sciences, and so on.

Others were more practical.

"Having meaningful discussion with Wrenshall (school district) is probably our best option of surviving and maintaining an identity," said one of the community advisers, as each table offered up two ideas discussed among the group.

The June 26 community visioning meeting was another step in the ongoing process of trying to gather input from community members and school district staff regarding their vision for the education of Carlton students.

Rather than relying on residents to call school board members or stand up at meetings, the district hired two consultants last spring to work with a group of volunteer community advisers who were selected themselves to represent a broad swath of the community and ideas.

Included in that group of community advisers were Colleen Bernu, Dave Chmielewski, Amy DeCaigney, Amber Despot, Lori Gamble, Jeffery Herman, Donna House, Roger Hurd, Chris Mitchell, Vicki Oberstar, William (Bill) Sharratt, Timothy Soden-Groves, Christopher Wagner and Frannie Weber.

Carlton Superintendent Gwen Carman said the volunteer advisers interviewed 36 community members in April with methods and results handled by a consultant hired by the school district. The consultant worked to make sure the advisers represented a wide range of residents, with different ages, family demographics, income and viewpoints represented. They tried to make sure the residents interviewed also represented all the different demographics in the district.

The community visioning meeting was the next step, said Glumac, explaining that the group discussed three different questions, with participants changing tables each time so they weren't with the same people.

The second question dealt with "what obstacles stand in the way of realizing your ideal vision."

The third question asked: "What would build ongoing community involvement in and support for the education of Carlton District students?"

Although each of about 10 tables only offered up two of its ideas each round, Glumac collected all of the notes from the evening's discussions and grouped those into themes. When she met with the community advisers that Thursday, they discussed and tweaked those summaries.

Last week, she met with the adviser group again and they discussed results from the interviews and community meeting, plus a previous visioning session with district teachers and staff to come up with some of the things that stand out to the advisers as "a snapshot" of where the district could be in three to five years.

On Monday, July 34, they started identifying what obstacles stand in the way of those ideas. They were scheduled to meet again Wednesday, July 25, to continue the discussion and maybe come up with some questions for an online survey that will likely be posted in August.

Glumac said it's been the advisers' job to take the information they've received from residents, plus their own thoughts, and synthesize it.

"I honestly don't know their own opinions about building new or consolidating or whatever," she said. "That's not what we're doing. They are listening to a wide variety of perspectives and we will try to reflect that in what they give to the (school] board)."

Carman noted previously that the purpose of the community meeting was to give input and to hear other people's input.

Glumac thought that happened as she observed the meeting.

"I saw a lot of good conversation, people leaning in, nodding, good engagement," she said.

To see summaries of the interviews and staff visioning session, go to Scroll down to "Quick Links" and find "Community Visioning Meeting on June 26th."