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B-E seeks committee members, eyes November referendum

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Vaughn Dierks from Wold Architects and Engineers, along with Brandon-Evansville Superintendent Dean Yocum, address the crowd at a community meeting Thursday night to discuss facility needs. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 2 / 2

The Brandon-Evansville School District is looking for volunteers to help decide how it is going to move forward with its facilities, with the possibility of another referendum in November.

On Thursday evening, more than 125 community members gathered in the gymnasium of the Brandon School to listen to a presentation facilitated by Vaughn Dierks from Wold Architects and Engineers.

Dierks explained that volunteers are needed for what he called "criteria committees" and there are three of them he proposed:

• Physical — members would look at physical conditions of both the Brandon and Evansville schools, operations, quality, site evaluation, technology infrastructure, safety and security.

• Educational — members would look at enrollment, capacity, grade configuration, educational adequacy, technology for instruction and program issues.

• Activities and community — members would look at athletics, performances, activities, community use and partnerships.

"We are not starting with a solution, we are starting with the why," Dierks told the crowd. "And why now? Because you had a referendum that didn't work."

In August, district voters rejected a plan to build a $38.75 million K-12 school building in Brandon.

Dierks also said that the whole process is going to take time and that there is no need to rush through any of it. He said right now, the district is looking for people to commit to the committees.

"We need people to show up, review the information, be present and most importantly, be respectful," Dierks said. "You are a civil community. You will not be unanimous, but we want to get to a consensus of what the community wants. We won't look at options until the needs are decided."

Dierks also stressed to the community members that he was not there to tell them what to do. He said he is there to facilitate and help in the process. He told them he wants the community to have ownership.

The committee meetings should begin sometime in January, he said, and there could be anywhere from two to six meetings per committee with each meeting roughly lasting about 90 minutes.

He also pointed out that those interested in sitting on the committees should have some connection to the district — whether it's as a staff member, taxpayer, business owner, parent, etc. There were sign up sheets after the meeting for those interested in being on the committees. People can also call the school district or stop by the schools to sign up as well. More information will be available on the district website and the district will be sending out a mailing, as well.

Dierks also presented a timeline, but stressed that it was not written in stone. Here's a look at his proposed timeline:

• January through March — criteria committees meet.

• March — community meeting.

• April through May — development of options.

• May — community meeting.

• June — recommendations made to the board.

• July through August — board takes recommendations into consideration.

• September through October — referendum campaign.

• November — referendum vote during general election.

At the end of the meeting, Dierks reiterated that reaching a consensus involves compromise and encourage community members to find common ground.

What community members had to say

Douglas County Commissioner Keith Englund spoke during the meeting and told those in attendance that there shouldn't be "any bitching if you're not on one of the committees." He said that people should show up or be quiet.

Several others spoke during the meeting. Here are just a few of the statements that were made:

"What about the issues we have now? How long are we going to sit on them? One, two, three years?" Superintendent Dean Yocum replied that the school district is looking at the issues, such as repairing a leaking roof, and will be prioritizing what needs to be fixed first. He said, "Just because it isn't being discussed, doesn't mean it's not being done.

"I see a lot of opposition. We need some sense that the opposition can move forward."

"We are not opposed to do something. No one wants to lose their identity."

"It doesn't matter to me, we just need to do what is best for the kids."

"We need to stop looking at the past and look toward moving to the future."

"We need to become one district to become a strong district."

"We have to get rid of the yeses and the nos. We have to work together. Period."

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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