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Residents in strategy session identify MACCRAY strengths, challenges

CLARA CITY -- Residents in the MACCRAY School District were offered the opportunity to be heard on how they would like to improve their school, and more than 60 of them took advantage of it.

Tom Cherveny / Tribune Participants of a strategy session Jan. 17 in the MACCRAY High School in Clara City break into small groups to discuss strengths and weaknesses and issues to address in the district.
Tom Cherveny / Tribune Participants of a strategy session Jan. 17 in the MACCRAY High School in Clara City break into small groups to discuss strengths and weaknesses and issues to address in the district.

CLARA CITY - Residents in the MACCRAY School District were offered the opportunity to be heard on how they would like to improve their school, and more than 60 of them took advantage of it.

Residents from across the district, as well as some school staff and school board members, joined with Bruce Miles, of the Big River Group LLC of St. Cloud, on the evening of Jan. 17 at the high school in Clara City. Miles and his company hold sessions like these with both businesses and schools to set goals for organizations based on the strengths and weaknesses identified by participants.

"Tonight is not about building a building,'' Miles told those who gathered. It was meant, he said at the onset, to be an opportunity "to talk to us about anything MACCRAY.''

And that being the case, buildings did come up. Participants had gathered in small groups to identify what they saw as issues to address, and facility development and the need for more space were issues that came to the forefront. Individuals "voted" with dots they placed on the issues raised by the groups to identify priorities. They made facility needs a top issue, with 43 votes.

The participants also cited a need for improved relationships among the member communities of MACCRAY.

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They also identified a need to improve the district governance system. The six MACCRAY School Board members are not elected at-large by all MACCRAY voters but rather each member is elected from one of six distinct districts within the larger school district. A number of the participants would rather see board members elected districtwide, and not by the current community breakdown of the original MACCRAY school districts of Raymond, Maynard and Clara City.

District voters in three referendums have rejected bond issues for facility projects, the most recent a $56 million proposal that would have upgraded the East and West elementary schools in Raymond and Maynard and expanded the High School and Junior High facilities in Clara City.

Participants found much to approve about the school. Informal surveys conducted with students, staff and community members prior to last week's session found that most felt the district has much going for it, from a caring and supportive staff to growth in enrollment.

Those issues emerged again when participants identified the district's strengths for Miles.

There was agreement too on the school's role in preparing students to be good citizens and equipping them with skills to succeed.

Overall, participants gave the session high marks. "Evidence that there is a true and genuine interest in finding common ground and solutions for the good of the district" was the most common assessment that participants gave to the event.

MACCRAY School Board members will review the full range of results at a special meeting on Feb. 21. They are also waiting for the results of a telephone survey being conducted by the Morris Leatherman Company of Minneapolis.

The company will collect results from at least 400 residents to determine how they perceive the school system, what issues they feel it faces, and what level of taxation they would support for improvements. The survey will also look at the communication and demographic characteristics of the district.

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Related Topics: CLARA CITYMAYNARD
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