In the months to come, leaders with the Jefferson City Public Schools hope to engage parents, staff and the greater community in a variety of public meetings. The discussions - both larger town hall-style talks and smaller group chats - will take place about every other month, through the next school year and into the foreseeable future.
To help plan the best times to host them, the district's Central Office staff have invited the public to participate in a four-question survey, which can be found on the district's website at www.jcschools.us.
The first question seeks to discover when would be the best time for the first meeting to take place and offers choices from mid-August to early October. The second question asks what's the best night of the week to hold a town hall meeting.
The third question asks responders to rank, in order of priority, a list of 15 topics the district is considering. Up for discussion are topics such as: planning for the district's current and future space and facility needs at all grade levels; the impact of block scheduling; recruitment, retention and hiring practices for faculty; academies; school uniforms, the expansion of sports facilities; and start-and-end times, transportation and attendance issues.
The fourth question gives respondents a chance to share their own ideas about what they'd like to see discussed in the district.
Luther said all of the topics are about improving student achievement.
"That's what the schools exist to do," he added. "The topics are varied, and they may not always seem to be directly related to helping students learn and grow, but that's what our goal is."
This is the first part of several stages of community engagement district leaders want to accomplish, Luther said.
"We've been talking for awhile about ways to engage more voices in our decision-making process," he added.
Although the initiative is related to last April's election - when voters declined to give the district more funding for a new high school and several other projects - planning started prior to that election, Luther said.
Under the initial plan, administrative staff hope to use the larger town hall forums to draw some common themes about the district's greatest needs. Once that happens, they hope to give those ideas to a smaller committee to further determine the best ways to meet those needs.
"Once we get input from our staff and the community we can work on implementing some of the things we've learned," Luther said. "We aspire to be excellent, but in many areas we aren't doing as well as we should - we're falling short and our students are paying the price.
"In order to truly be a great school district, our community must have real ownership in the schools. Our hope is that these discussions start us down that path."
The survey is being disseminated to about 2,500 households that receive the district's Key Communicator newsletter, via the district's website and on Facebook.
"We would love for anyone who is a district patron to participate," Luther said.