Clark County Public Schools, community begin dialogue on how to better local education

Published 4:00 pm Friday, November 11, 2022

When Clark County Public Schools Superintendent Dustin Howard was hired in September, he vowed to bring the community and school system together.

Last Thursday, the district and the community did just that at the district’s first-ever Community Input & Planning Event at George Rogers Clark High School.

District employees and a diverse group of community leaders met in the school’s library, where they were assigned a table. Each table was given a topic and tasked with coming up with suggestions for how the district could improve on said topic.

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Events like the input and planning session are rooted in Howard’s vision for the district he pitched when he interviewed for the superintendent position.

“The genesis was from the idea of why I applied to be superintendent, and that was to bridge the gaps in our community,” he said. “I feel like we have gaps about not working together and not coming together over a common vision.”

Howard floated to different tables during their discussions and came away feeling good energy from each.

“The word I would use is that there is a lot of optimism and a lot of hope for doing better in the future for our kids, recognizing that we have work to do,” Howard said.

District officials sent out many invitations to the event with the hope that it would bring a diverse set of viewpoints.

And judging from the attendance of political candidates to pastors, that goal was achieved.

A table tasked with crafting ideas to ensure a successful graduate certainly fit the bill.

It was comprised of Conkwright Elementary teacher Jennifer Cooper, Winchester City Commissioner Shannon Cox, district instructional specialist Allison Hill, Baker Intermediate Principal Josh Mounts, and Campbell Junior High teacher Lauren Whittaker.

“I think this was an excellent opportunity for the community and the school system to make a connection and get more involved with each other,” Cox said about the event.

Cox also said that the community “desperately need the people” in it to feel welcome in the school district and for them “to have a reason to come.”

Mounts volunteered to explain how schools work to make community members feel welcome.

“On the large schoolwide level, we promote events and make folks aware of what is going on…We trickle down to the classroom level and encourage teachers to engage parents and families to get them into buildings as much as possible through their children.”

Howard said he hopes the group discussion will remind educators and community members that they are not alone in working to better the school district.

“Sometimes folks feel helpless because they don’t know what to do to support their student, but collectively there is something different about that,” he said. “It is like tug-of-war where the more people you get pulling in the same direction, the more you move people and the more momentum you build up.”

The next step is to take the community’s feedback and develop a plan for implementing some of the ideas, and while, as Howard said, that will take time, the work of crafting a successful school district will be well worth it.