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Morton Times-News - Morton, IL
  • Recommendations set from 709Connect

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    • Group pulls 709Connect together
      While four community members donated their time to come to every meeting, another group of community members donated much more time.


      Carol Jankowski said the coordinating committee met m...
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      Group pulls 709Connect together
      While four community members donated their time to come to every meeting, another group of community members donated much more time.



      Carol Jankowski said the coordinating committee met multiple times between meetings to get speakers and discussion items set up for the next meeting.



      “They had such healthy dialogue with one another,” Jankowski said. “They didn’t always agree and asked hard questions. They were in it to work and certainly did.”



      Superintendent Lindsey Hall added that they tried to find a diverse group of people in the community to be a part of the coordinating committee, including those that voted against the referendum.



      “There was this health spirit of making sure that group did not all act together as an agreeable body,” Hall said.
  • Now that the six 709Connect meetings are over, a list of recommendations have been set and are ready to present to the board.
     
    Superintendent Lindsey Hall said the meetings went well overall.
     
    “It was a very productive exercise in community engagement and hearing from a total of 248 different people over the course of the six meetings,” Hall said. “There’s no right number for the number of participants at the meetings.”
     
    “Overall, we came away with excellent recommendations to follow up on. I think if you asked the people that attended they’d say the meetings were interesting and interactive.”
     
    During the course of the meetings, Hall said two in particular had lower attendance than the others: the finance meeting and the final meeting for input. The finance meeting was moved due to homecoming to a Tuesday, a day Hall said is always busy for the district. Plus, she said that finances can be a bit hard to talk about.
     
     “I’m not going to sit here and say that school finance can be the most exciting topic,” she said.
     
    Meanwhile, Hall thought the final meeting may have had low attendance due to the time of the year or people already giving input at past meetings.
     
    Four people signed in and attended every meeting that was held.
     
    Now that the meetings are over, Communications Coordinator Carol Jankowski said that people are still rewatching the meetings as they air on TV.
     
    Coming away with the recommendations from the meeting, Hall said there wasn’t anything on the list that surprised her.
     
    “I feel very encouraged,” she said. “There’s nothing on here that I feel like we can’t look into it.”
     
    Jankowski added that she was surprised by the amount of people wanting to know about volunteer opportunities in the district and those that still wanted to help at the end of the meetings.
     
    “I’m sure there’s other people that would want to help too, we just don’t have their names,” Hall said.
     
    Looking at the recommendations, Hall said they span a wide level of complication. Some of the recommendations have already been implemented, mainly on the communication level. They include providing more ways for two-way communication, such as being on Facebook and Twitter now, along with providing prompt answers to questions they are asked.
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    Other recommendations, such as establishing a long-range plan for buildings, will take longer for the group to do, and may require new committees or possibly funds being used as well.
     
    “I’m going to be working on these from a standpoint of bringing recommendations to the school board on Jan. 15,” Hall said.
     
    One thing Hall noted is the lack of any kind of discussion of a referendum on the recommendations.
     
    “There was some perception that the whole 709Connect thing was just to go back to the voters with a tax increase,” she said. “If you notice, there is no recommendation about a referendum. There are things that could lead to that, but it involves the input and participation of people to get to that point.”
     
    Looking ahead, both Hall and Jankowski said they are looking for ways to continue the meeting. “There (have) been a number of people we’ve heard back from asking, ‘How we can continue something like this?’” Hall said.
     
    One option being discussed is having a key communicators group consisting of various groups in Morton that would meet throughout the year with Hall to discuss ideas and relay messages to the community.
     
    Another idea is holding a Q&A session with Hall to let people ask questions they have. Currently, they are looking at dates for 2013 that would not interfere with events.
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