The Fort Smith School District is holding community meetings to see how they can improve and create a new district plan

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FORT SMITH — The school district is once again holding community meetings to receive input to create a new strategic plan for the district.

While ongoing capital improvement projects are complete, the district has completed the Vision 2023 plan with $390,000 remaining in total capital improvement money and is looking to start a new plan.

Vision 2023 was funded by a $5.558 million property tax increase approved by voters in May 2018, which generated approximately $121 million before it expired. An additional $13 million from donations and other sources brought capital improvement funds to $134 million.

Vision 2023 projects included additional safety and security, building improvements, increased classroom capacity, expanded technology, and a career and technology center.

The first community meeting was held Monday at the Peak Innovation Center, another Vision 2023 project. Participants were asked what the district is doing well, what it should improve, what it should start doing to ensure the student achievement and what he should stop doing.

Parents Riley and Joni Donoho said they attended the meeting to get involved in their child’s education.

Joni Donoho is vice principal at Sunnymede Elementary School and Riley Donoho is a civil engineer at Ebbing Air National Guard Base.

“I was here for the 2023 mission when we first arrived, so I just wanted to follow up and see what was going on,” Riley Donoho said. “It’s good.”

On Monday, the district learned from meeting attendees that schools are preparing students well for college and careers, providing meals and communicating with parents, and people want them to continue improving buildings, d ‘involve parents, focus on student mental health and find ways to keep teachers in the classroom.

Zena Featherston Marshall, the district’s executive director of communications and community partnerships, said the district has so far met with staff at half of its 26 campuses and they’ve received similar responses.

“Continuity,” she says. “People would like to settle down a bit. We’ve had a lot of changes over the past few years, including the two new programs that were introduced last year, in addition to the reconfiguration of classes. So there’s been lots of activity.”

Superintendent Terry Morawski said so far there doesn’t appear to be any interest in another mileage election, but rather to adjust the district’s budget.

“I think everyone has been very positive about the district and its buildings,” said Caroline Neel, director of strategic initiatives and federal programs. “Of course we ask what are the ways we can improve because no matter what we do we can always improve. But I think the majority of people have been very positive.”

Morawski said the last community meeting was Nov. 1, when the district will review information, research themes, discuss solutions and create a summary of the new vision. He said it will then be presented to the school board in November or December for comment and approval, and will likely begin to be implemented by the end of the school year.

“There’s a window there, depending on how long the discussion with the school board lasts,” Morawski said. “Beyond that, we’re developing data tied to those individual goals and monitoring as a district and school board in the spring.”

The district has scheduled two more community meetings: Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. at Tilles Elementary School, 815 N. 16th St., and Nov. 1 at 10 a.m. at the main branch of the Fort Smith Public Library, 3201 Rogers Ave.

A visitor walks past a decorative scarecrow dressed in a Fort Smith Public Schools shirt, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, at the Fort Smith Public Schools Administration Building in Fort Smith. The district has begun to hold community meetings for continuous improvement, the information from which it will use to develop a new strategic plan. Visit nwaonline.com/221009Daily/ for today’s photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)
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