WAHOO – Wahoo Public School will use extra help to take the next step in community engagement.

The District 39 Board of Education approved Monday evening the hiring of Heartland Center for Leadership Development to establish a stronger connection with the community as a whole and provide focused opportunities for engaging district stakeholders.

Consultants for Heartland Center also engaged the community earlier this year, collecting feedback about the district and the failed bond election last November.

This next step in planning for program and facility improvements will cost the district up to $12,000.

The 4-2 vote to contract with Heartland came after considerable discussion Monday evening.

Board Member Tom Hrdlicka, who was one of the no votes, asked how this proposal for services was different than the first time around. He said his concern was that it could yield the same information.

Heartland Consultant Larry Dlugash said the first round was about community input collection.

“This is more about planning action than data collection,” he said.

The scope of services for the consultants includes establishing an approach for ongoing community engagement, forming four to six tasks forces to provide input on key questions, organizing a steering committee, developing a scope and time frame and providing an assessment of processes effectiveness.

After Dlugash and fellow consultant Milan Wall presented findings from the first round of services, the board asked them to come back with a proposal for continued engagement.

Dlugash said the various components of these services would include trying to rebuild the relationship between the board and the community.

“It goes back to trust,” he said.

Wall agreed they heard there was a lack of trust during months building up to the election last November.

“You need an authentic community engagement process,” he said.

Through the task forces and steering committee, the goal would be to allow the community to have a say in how the next plan is formed.

But planning for any kind of major project takes time, Board Member Mike Hancock pointed out.

“I don’t think it will change the outcome of the next step,” he added.

Hancock, who joined Hrdlicka in voting no Monday, said the district had immediate needs that needed to be addressed now.

“The need is not going to go away,” he said.

He proposed using money already set aside in the special building fund to start to tackle some of those needs now.

Board Member Lora Iversen agreed that such current problems as students crammed into classrooms needed to be addressed soon. She said the district did have growing pains, but projects needed to also be tempered with a strategy. Engaging the community to help with that strategy could be a win in the end.

Board Member Al Grand-

genett pointed out the board also needed to have a strategy that involved more than the immediate needs. While space was tighter than tight right now at the middle school, he said the elementary school was also near capacity.

Wall told the board that he and Dlugash would organize and facilitate the ongoing discussion, but that it would be the board that would have to come to an agreement on how to move forward.

“Ultimately, you are going to have to own it, as is your community,” he said.

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