Bridging schools, community
District administrator seeks more public input
By Scott Bellile
Devoted to enhancing community connections, the New London School District’s new superintendent established a committee charged with the cause.
The New London School Board’s connections committee will discuss “practices that form connections and communicate with stakeholders in order to enhance and develop relationships, gain understanding, and provide further communication with the community,” according to Superintendent Dennis Krueger’s proposal.
The committee will meet quarterly. According to the proposal, assignments will include:
• Developing methods to seek stakeholders’ voices, such as surveys and “linking opportunities.”
• Communicating effectively with stakeholders via channels including the district website, social media, newsletters and the newspaper.
• Supporting and integrating with district initiatives such as referendums when appropriate.
• Sharing information and recommendations to the full school board.
Pitched by Krueger on July 24, the school board approved the formation of the standing committee on a 4-0 vote.
Board President Kim Schroeder and trustees John Heideman, Terry Wegner and Chris Martinson voted yes. Vice President Virginia Schlais and trustees Bill Schmidt and Connie Neely were absent from the meeting.
Krueger appointed Schroeder and Wegner to serve on the two-person committee.
Krueger told the board that he did not name it the communications committee because its purpose goes beyond communicating. The “connections” element focuses on developing relationships with community stakeholders and gaining greater understanding of their beliefs.
“We want to hear what the stakeholders, the community has to say,” Krueger said. “It could be in the form of surveys. It could be linkage opportunities: inviting segments of the community in to listen to some pre-determined topics to dialogue around about the school, about the community. It could be ensuring that we communicate effectively and efficiently with our website, our newsletter, our social media and newspaper.”
This is not to say the School District of New London lacks communication or connections right now.
The district promotes outreach through its social media, e-newsletter and Bulldog Bulletin magazine. It also continues community connections with organizations including Rawhide Boys Ranch, New London Parks and Recreation and Wolf River Theatrical Troupe, as well as the business community through the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship program and the Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences program.
Krueger armed with ideas
A drive to build connections is one of many plans Krueger brings to the school district since officially starting his position July 1. He was previously superintendent for the Howard-Suamico School District.
Prior to the July 24 board meeting, Krueger shared with the Press Star three “themes” he will focus on and blend with the district’s strategic plan.
One is encouraging educators to ask students, “What is your story?” In other words, go beyond recognizing a child’s face in a classroom desk.
“The best teachers or educators know who the students are,” Krueger said. “So they know what makes them tick. They know what their strengths are what their weaknesses are. And I believe that students need to know themselves as individuals, like ‘How do I learn best?’ ‘How do I study this?’ ‘Who am I?’ ‘What is it that brings joy to my heart?’”
A second theme Krueger is invested in is “Lead Your Learning.” This involves setting up teachers and students for success by giving them choice and voice, or ownership, in their learning.
“It’s being accountable to yourself for what you need to know to improve yourself, whether it’s your profession or yourself as a student, to improve your knowledge or your disposition regarding that topic,” Krueger said.
The third theme Krueger highlighted is there are many pathways to success for students. A path to achievement could be acceleration for one student or alternative assessments for another. Learning can be personalized rather than one homogenous true-or-false exam for everyone, Krueger said.
Schroeder expressed confidence in the leadership Krueger has demonstrated in his first weeks.
“Dennis Krueger has quickly earned the confidence and support from staff, community and board,” Schroeder told the Press Star in a statement. “His face to face approach of getting to know people by learning their stories will continue to open up doors of communication. Their stories are important and will help to guide the district.”