Small focus groups key for tonight's educational forum

WEBUTUCK — Thursday, Dec. 9, the Webutuck Central School District will hold an educational forum designed to record feedback on the district’s programs as well as to field suggestions and ideas for the future.

Superintendent Steven Schoonmaker said the idea for the event originated with former Interim Grades 7-12 Principal John Oates, who suggested it as a way to involve the community. Similar forums have been successful in other school districts.

There are 14 grades in the district and Schoonmaker wants those who attend the forum to break into groups and interact with each other.

“Really the goal would be each grade group having six to eight people,� he said. “We ought to have parents from each of the grades, teachers, business people, public officials, taxpayers, senior citizens, students and staff so that we get a mix of people who have an opportunity to talk about the district.�

The small groups will discuss three main questions in relation to Webutuck: Where have we been? Where are we now? Where would we like to go?

School districts in the area have traditionally found it hard to organize large numbers of parents and community members in the district, but Schoonmaker was hopeful that whatever the turnout, efforts like the forum would help to establish the community’s trust in the educational efforts at Webutuck.

“It’s part of the process of saying to the community, ‘We want to know what you think. We’re listening, we’re reaching out.’ There is a belief, and I think the media plays a part in this, that schools are doing things incorrectly or wrong. But when people understand what we’re doing, what we’re trying to do and what our priorities are, that their money is being spent to the best of our ability and being spent wisely, then you get the support of the community. [The forum] is one of those efforts.�

Another effort will be an inaugural “Administrative Corner,� as it’s being called, the first of which will be held Jan. 22 at 9 a.m. The idea is to have a monthly Saturday morning meeting where parents and community members can stop in for some informal discussion with district staff and administration.

The educational forum will be held tonight, Dec. 9, at the Webutuck High School auditorium, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. If you are interested in attending, contact Tracy Trotter, the district clerk, at 845-373-4104.

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