A photo went “viral” a while back that showed a bunch of Congresspeople and other power-brokers in Washington, D.C. discussing health care legislation in this country and, specifically, what, if any, aspects of women’s reproductive health and contraception should be included in insurance coverage offered by employers.

    There must have been a couple dozen of them posing for the photo. They were all men, many with gray hair on their heads, and they were all white. It would have been more appropriate as a satirical commentary from The Onion, but the photo, the guys, and what they were debating was, unfortunately, all too real.

    It’s probably not the ideal comparison to make, but as the Crookston School District, led by first-year Superintendent Jeremy Olson, embarks on a strategic planning initiative, the process and the end product would be better served if the demographics of those who participate in the effort match the demographics of the school district’s current population.

    This is an income-challenged school district. The student population has become so diverse, mostly due to Hispanics and Native Americans, that the district this year for the first time reached a diversity threshold that will each year have “Achievement and Integration” funding aimed at boosting student success flowing into the district from the state.

    So, no offense, please, to the community leaders and other proactive Crookston residents who always seem to find time to get involved in just about anything of significance in this town...but this latest strategic planning effort can’t involve only Crookston’s establishment, per se, that obviously cares about the fate of the local public schools, but maybe has very few, if any direct ties to it.

    Olson, district administrators and the school board are hosting a “Community Input Session” on Tuesday, April 23 beginning at 5:30 in the high school commons. There will be free pizza and beverages. There will be free child care for kids in kindergarten through third grade so parents can attend and speak up.

    When Olson put the word out that he wanted to make a concerted effort to involve the community in the strategic planning initiative, and he announced the April 23 session, he was provided with names of suggested people to contact to personally invite. Olson is happy to make those contacts, but he says the process needs more people. Different people. New people. An important process that will set a path forward for the district in the coming years must involve the most key stakeholders, otherwise it’ll come up short by not giving a voice to the people who perhaps need to be heard the most.

    There are a lot of disconnected people in this community. People who feel left out, perhaps deliberately so, and who feel no sense of ownership in Crookston and its school district. Yes, it’s a two-way street. A person can’t sit back and wait to begged to participate, get asked, fail to engage, and then complain afterward.

    You get the picture. 

    And fill out your strategic planning survey, too. It’s on the Crookston School District website, at crookston.k12.mn.us.