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Morton Times-News - Morton, IL
  • Halls of 709: Giving thanks to community

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  • My morning runs through Morton are my time to relax, relieve some stress and reflect on my professional and personal life.
    On a foggy Thanksgiving morning, as I smelled the delicious smells of early preparation of feasts to be enjoyed later in the day (included several turkeys being smoked outside!), I was especially cognizant of the many blessings that are so abundant in our community. As we reach the conclusion of our 709Connect Community Engagement initiative, this activity, in particular, is something for which I am extremely grateful and thankful.
    This Thursday marks the final community engagement meeting.
    Little did I realize that when we first invited our community to gather back on August 9th, that this exercise in listening and sharing would be so valuable, enlightening and insightful to so many people, myself included.
    This Thursday, we will ask our participants to give feedback on proposed recommendations that will be made to our Board of Education on Dec. 11.
    These recommendations have emerged from the previous five meetings that we have had on Aug. 9, Aug. 30, Sept. 25, Oct. 11 and Nov. 1.
    It is absolutely NOT too late to attend—even if this will be your first meeting, your ideas and input are appreciated and are important.
    Another part of our meeting this Thursday is to say, resoundingly, THANK YOU. Thanks goes out to so many people and groups.
    First and foremost, is the Board of Education in Morton CUSD 709. Without their leadership and decisions to support this initiative, it would not have happened.
    Many school boards are not interested in hearing what their constituents have to say—because the news is not always positive. Our organization will only move head, progress and improve through listening to and hearing not only the "kudos" but also in learning how we can improve.
    Our Board of Education has, through their actions with 709Connect, made a commitment to listening, studying and being open to the recommendations that come forth.
    The Coordinating Group is another pivotal group of people whose purpose has been to plan and prepare for our 709Connect meetings.
    This dedicated and diverse group of community members and 709 employees not only has been fun to work with — but incredibly wise, reflective and creative. They have represented the stakeholders of our school district in an excellent manner.
    The Coordinating Group is: Andy Honneger, Becky Fowler, Michelle Bernier, Carol Sears, Jan Bond, Carol Jankowski, Jolly Webb, John Myers, Craig Smock, Troy Teater, Roger Kilpatrick, Trent Sauder, Wayne Rowell and Ben Wellenreiter.
    Our co-chairs, providing extraordinary leadership throughout this process, are Kelly Scarfe and Mary Jane Johnson.
    Dan Burns and Rod Wright from UnicomARC were valuable sources of insight and expertise, the Morton Education Association provided childcare, and Jill Springer and Carolu Kizer were so helpful with the clerical and organizational part of this journey—thank you!
    Page 2 of 2 - And last, in certainly no way LEAST, and arguably the key component in the 709Connect process—is YOU, the community member. Thank you for contributing in whatever way that you did—perhaps you attended every meeting, perhaps it was only one. Maybe you sent an idea to a meeting with someone else who was attending, or you might have emailed me or another staff member with your thoughts and opinions on a particular topic. No matter how your contribution "looked" to the community engagement process—it was worthy and essential.
    THANK YOU for how you participated and thank you for being a contributor.
    I hope to see you from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday in the Morton High School cafeteria.
    We will once again provide childcare, free of charge, courtesy of the Morton Education Association. As part of our thanks to the community, starting at 6 p.m., we will be entertained by the musical group "Prelude" from MHS, and we will have a wide variety of desserts/coffee on this evening, graciously sponsored by AllTrust Financial.

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