From the Free Dictionary *:
1. a hostile meeting of opposing military forces in the course of a war
2. a meeting arranged in advance
3. a mutual promise to marry
4. the act of giving someone a job
5. employment for performers or performing groups that lasts for a limited period of time
6. contact by fitting together
7. the act of sharing in the activities of a group
*the initial definitions at the top of the page are bogus; “the act of engaging”, something that engages… seriously?!?
Typically when I use the word “engagement” on this blog, I have in mind definition #7, one of collaboration and mutual involvement. It is with that thought in mind we gathered at Houlihans this past week for a fun and very tactile discussion of where to put a new Central High School.
It was a good trial run; I personally rather enjoyed working with such a large format, being able to draw circles, move the little red monopoly hotel around, etc. I even cut out a rough 1.5 mile radius polygon to scale, and it was HUGE – things like this really give pop to the details. Most significantly, in my mind, the options that we explored were totally independent of the ones “discovered” by the Public Engagement firm (there’s that word again) hired by the school district. I make this point because it is interesting that we (in general) have so many different opinions and so many different ways of making our opinions heard.
So one big announcement; we decided to postpone plans for March 24th since that is coming up way too quick. Instead, we are aiming at April 7th (location and time TBA, but probably 1-4:pm). This will give us more time to better prepare and advertise. We will be attending the March 25th Board Meeting to invite participation, as well as contacting the local media (press release?). Our plan is to do two more before the end of May. Note to self: generate a PDF which can be sent to schools and posted on websites.
I am told that the Steering Team has decided on their final recommendations to be made to Dr. Wiegand later in April, and those recommendations will be presented to the Board in May. However, after asking several times and several people, no one has shared with me what those recommendations are.
What exactly are we doing on April 7th?
We are going to have fun! As stated in my previous post, we start with a large 3 foot by 3 foot map of the school district, with the existing schools clearly labeled. Than we get out pencils, markers, paper, pipe cleaners, tape, etc, and start exploring what it would look like if we put a school …. here. Or here. What if we put a bridge here. What if this road were one-way the other way? What if the high school were broken into 4 separate buildings here, here, here and here? It’s a really fun “what if” game. And the ensuing discussion brings out a bunch of pros and cons; “Well, if you do that, then this will happen, and that might happen.” Even the “I don’t like that because….” or “wow, that’s really cool, I never thought of that” adds to the gestalt, the overall bigger picture.
Why are we doing this?
Because that’s the way I roll. I engage with all my senses, not just my eyeballs. I really like having physical things I can move, change, nudge, mark up and alter. It’s the kid in me wanting to come out and play. Do you have an inner child saying the same thing?
Additionally, while the “context” provided by DeJong-Richter is helpful, I find it way too overwhelming. And from talking to others, they are overwhelmed also. I am hearing a lot of disconnects. A lot of “unengagement.” I want to share this fun with others, and I would love to hear what other crazy and whacky ideas are floating around out there. 🙂
There is another side to engagement, a darker side. This morning, BoardDocs was updated early with an Agenda for the March 25th Board Meeting. So naturally I looked through it and developed some questions. The official response from the Board President was “watch the meeting and get back to us”. This is the second time this year where I have posed questions via the Board email address only to receive the “wait and see” response. On top of that, on both occasions the Superintendent has been kind enough to respond before the board meeting and answer the questions more fully. I am confused by the response of the Board – I don’t get how it sends the message of “continuing to work in partnership with others to enable Unit 4 to achieve its full potential” (BOE web page). Or perhaps I am the problem; perhaps I am in a definition #1 engagement.
In Part 2 of this engagement mini-series, I will talk about what is going on with the Parent Advocacy Committee; we have had some awesome discussions, most of which was via email only (some you can find on the google group).