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Talking Points -- Strategic Planning Committees great way to help shape schools

Many Minnesota residents would love the opportunity to get involved in mapping the course of their school districts. Young people and their educations have a way of stirring up peoples' altruism.

Typically, that would involve running for a seat on the local school board. And that's a particularly abrasive rub for many. School board work is often thankless and involves a major commitment of time devoted to the educational and administrative tasks at hand, as well as sacrificing valuable time away from families and activities.

The sometimes mind-numbing agendas that can stretch meetings out until late at night are just the most obvious drawback for those already juggling a busy home and work schedule. There are board committee meetings and duties - negotiations committee members might be involved in dozens of meetings before a contract is settled.

And that's just the start, because you can rest assured that once identified as a school board member, your day-to-day small talk with residents around town very quickly will become very big talk, especially if there is a levy referendum or building project on the table.

So while many residents just can't see themselves making that kind of commitment, residents of the Morris Area School District do have an outlet. The board's Strategic Planning Committees are a way for residents to jump into the process and help build a bold, better school district.

About a year ago, the Morris Area district embarked on a mission of making the district the finest in Western Minnesota based on academic excellence, co-curricular involvement and student and staff pride in their work.

Without much fanfare or publicity, committees were formed and set out on six priorities:

•Embrace accountability at all levels of our organization

•Increase community partnerships

•Increase participation in co- and extra-curriculars

•Increase trust and communication

•Prepare our students to be successful in the 21st century

•Stay fiscally stable and plan with our community

Committee members are already deeply involved in finding the "Indicator of success" in each of the six categories. They've met often, charted progress and refined their approach. While it appeared at first as another example of many dream, compile and collect dust endeavors, it's become clear these committees mean business. The process is serious and respectable, and the focus in year two will be to gather data that will help put a finer point on how the vision can be realized.

And the committees want your help. People who would like to contribute, people wishing to volunteer their expertise or ideas, people who don't have the time to devote to a full school board schedule but can make time to help out in one of six areas vital to the growth of the school district, are being encouraged to step up.

No campaigning, no schedule shuffling, no long conversations about how this will bite into your already busy life. Just an avenue to build something better for kids. Call the school district at 320-589-4840 and ask about the next step.