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Residents in Evansville share thoughts at school listening session: Cost is top priority w/video

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Consultants with ICS Consulting, Glen Chiodo (left) and Lynn Dyer, address residents at a listening session at the Evansville Senior Center Wednesday night. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 2 / 3
Residents at a listening session for the Brandon-Evansville School District Wednesday night prioritize the needs of the district using red dot stickers. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 3 / 3

When it comes to the facility needs for the Brandon-Evansville School District, cost was one of the biggest factors cited by attendees at a listening session in Evansville Wednesday night.

Other facility needs according to the more than 50 residents who attended the second of four sessions were: safety; school maintenance; handicapped accessibility; remodeling two sites versus building one new site; flexible learning spaces for students; size of classrooms; before- and after-school programs such as latch-key; and increased enrollment.

A similar session was held a few hours earlier in Brandon.

ICS Consulting, which the school board hired to help assess facility issues and needs, is holding the listening sessions to hear from residents, staff and students.

Three consultants from ICS — Lori Christensen, Lynn Dyer and Glen Chiodo — led the session at the Senior Center in Evansville. Both Dyer and Chiodo have more than 30 years of experience in education as both are former teachers/administrators.

District residents sat at tables and wrote answers to questions asked by the consultants, who then read them aloud and posted them on large sheets of paper. There were between 20 and 38 responses to each question, with the average being about 30.

During the 90-minute session, seven questions were asked of the attendees:

• Why are you here?

• What are the great things happening in the district?

• What are the biggest challenges?

• If you could write a newspaper headline 10 years from now about the district, what would it say?

• How do you want the district to communicate with you?

• What are the district's biggest needs?

• What advice would you give to administrators?

The question with the most responses was what the district's biggest challenges are, with two of the top responses being aging buildings and finances. Other challenges included keeping good teachers, declining enrollment, the two towns working together and each town wanting its own school.

As for the great things happening in the school district, the resounding answer was its teachers, which were described as great, excellent, wonderful, fantastic and caring. Residents also cited new administration, small class sizes, increasing enrollment and academic opportunities.

Why people were attending the listening session varied mostly between wanting to be informed, wanting to be involved and for the future of their children.

Future headlines included that the B-E school district is thriving, students have high test scores, the two towns finally come together and the new school is busting at the seams.

Listening to the people, being open minded and transparent, communicating, not rushing into things and using facts instead of emotions are just a few of the pieces of advice attendees had for school administrators.

And just like the listening session in Brandon, residents want the district to communicate with them through mailings, emails and newspaper articles. Many of them also stated meetings were a great way to communicate.

The two remaining listening sessions are scheduled for:

• Monday, Sept. 10, from 7:30-9 p.m. in the Brandon school gym.

• Wednesday, Sept. 12, from 7:30-9 p.m. at the Evansville Senior Center.

The goal of the firm and the school board is to gather as much information from district residents to incorporate a plan that will best meet the needs of the district, according to the firm.

Child care services will be available during the sessions at each location.

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 nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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