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Regional school districts seek community input

WILLMAR -- An online survey about school cooperation is waiting for the residents of 17 school districts in central and west central Minnesota.

The survey will gauge people's views on curriculum, teacher evaluation, staff training and shared services. The survey is open to anyone and is not limited to people with a connection to the schools.

School leaders from an area stretching from Ortonville to Lester Prairie have been meeting since last summer to discuss the future of education in the area. They have discussed ways they could work together to provide more opportunities for all children.

The 17 districts represent more than 16,000 students, according to a news release from the group.

Ridgewater College and some educational service providers have also joined the discussions. Many area schools are already members of technology consortiums and organizations like the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative.

Superintendents involved in the discussions have said they started talking about cooperation and communication to prepare for the future. They wanted to be able to respond to future challenges like inadequate funding, new government regulations or changing demographics.

The group received a $5,000 grant last year from the Southwest Initiative Foundation to hire a facilitator to lead discussions.

Each district has surveyed its own residents. This latest survey, which will include the entire area, will provide information to be included in a final report on the effort.

At least one cooperative effort has grown from the meetings. The Willmar, Montevideo and New London-Spicer school districts are close to an agreement to share a food service director. Annette Derouin, the director in Willmar, would oversee menus and operations for all three districts. The districts plan to use their combined buying power to save money on food.

To complete the survey, follow the link attached to this story.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340