Education Matters public forum moves on |

Education Matters public forum moves on

Andrew Cristancho/Sierra SunLaura Abbey Brown and Phebe Bell display the Golden Apple award that Education Matters earned in 2006. Brown is the executive director of Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation, and Bell is the program officer for the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation.

It all started with a question: How do we become the best educational system in the state?

Now, after 13 community meetings and contributions from more than 800 citizens, Education Matters will move on to its next phase, according to one of the founders of the process, Laura Abbey Brown.

“When we began Education Matters, our goal was not to create a new agency or committee that existed into eternity,” Brown said Monday in an e-mail. “At this point … we believe that the wisest course of action is to put a hold on the formal work of Education Matters for the time being.”

Founders wanted the community-based process to identify the Tahoe-Truckee region’s educational priorities.

Brown, the executive director of the Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation, said the initial goals for the community forums included a range of issues. That included bringing a community voice into the school district’s decision-making process, helping inform the grant-making decisions of the Excellence in Education Foundation, and helping write the education portion of the recent Community Report Card for the Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee.

The bottom line was to excite the community at large about the school district.

In 2006, the California Consortium of Education Foundations recognized Education Matters with the Apple Award for Programs and Outreach.

Organizers and participants of the successful outreach program accomplished their stated goals by involving the public and various agencies in establishing eight priorities for the Truckee-Tahoe educational community.

According to another founder, Program Officer Phebe Bell of the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, a three-year, $750,000 grant recently awarded to Tahoe Truckee Unified School District may not have been possible without the community meetings.

“The Cowell Grant would not have occurred if it was not for Education Matters,” Bell said.

Bell said the unifying approach of including the community “sets us apart from a reactionary stance and makes us more attractive to fund.”

Bell added that her agency was satisfied with the amount of community participation, which according to Brown included 800 parents, school district employees and other community members.

Tahoe Truckee Unified’s board members will use the community input to guide many decisions they make in the future, according to Trustee Bev Ducey.

Ducey said the five strategic priorities that the trustees use to inform their decisions are philosophically similar to the findings of Education Matters. Ducey added that during the current search for a new district superintendent, the community priorities will be forwarded to all candidates.

If the public’s priorities shift regarding education, brushing off the dust to start another Education Matters process is not out of the question.

“Perhaps in a few more years a need will rise again for gathering broad community input and if so, the mechanisms of Education Matters can be reborn,” Brown said in an e-mail. “But in the meantime … we encourage [everyone] to be a part of the solutions ” join site councils and PTO’s, participate in board meetings and district committees, volunteer in classrooms or with Excellence in Education ” but somehow be a part of making the vision and ideas of Education Matters a reality.”

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