Citizens Advisory Committee finds strength in differences

February 17, 2022 cbrown

Battle Ground schools’ Citizens Advisory Committee finds strength in differences

Feb. 17, 2022

Five meetings in, the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) for Battle Ground Public Schools is finding its stride. The group of 36 parents, community members, faith-based leaders and senior citizens was selected from a pool of nearly 100 applicants last August. The committee is part of a broader commitment by Superintendent Denny Waters’ towards “working better together.”

Superintendent Denny Waters with the Citizens Advisory Committee

Superintendent Denny Waters updates the CAC during their Feb. 10 meeting at Battle Ground High School

“The idea is that we as a district will focus on communication and collaboration with our stakeholders in an effort to cultivate trust,” Waters said.

The group meets from 5:30-7:00 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month, Sept.-May. Members will eventually serve 3-year terms. This first group will serve either 1, 2, or 3-years in order to allow for continuity and so that about one-third of the committee is refreshed each year.

“I care about this community and want to make a difference as best I can,” explained committee member David Lindner, a pastor at SixEight Church in Vancouver and parent of a Battle Ground High School student. Erica Bedrossian, a parent of three who recently moved to the area, agreed. “I want to be involved and I want to be a part of the process,” she said.

David Lindner

David Lindner listens during a Feb. 10 meeting of the Battle Ground schools’ Citizens Advisory Committee

The first meeting was relatively unstructured, with Waters and other district administrators answering an array of questions from the group. Lindner said he left that first meeting “a little concerned it was going to be a lot of arguing.”Bedrossian shared those concerns but credits a transparent and focused approach from Waters for steering things in a more productive direction. “He’s very honest,” she said. “He’s very open. You can tell there’s a great desire to do what is best for our kids and our schools and our teachers.”

In its second meeting, the CAC engaged in a ThoughtExchange survey, answering open-ended questions and then ranking the responses of others. They later examined responses to a similar survey the district sent out to the community. Recent meetings have focused on the district’s current Strategic Plan that is due for an update. 

“It’s been impressive to see how much the participants have jumped into the process,” Waters said. “Their input will help shape our strategic plan update so that it’s not only easier to understand but also reflects our entire community.”

Priorities that emerged from the group during strategic planning discussions have focused on high-quality instruction, fiscal transparency, parental involvement and creating a safe and supportive learning environment for students.

“It’s still a lot of broad concepts, but I’m really excited,” Waters said.

Board President Mark Watrin has attended several of the meetings and believes the CAC represents a positive step for both the community and students in Battle Ground.

“What particularly impresses me is the genuine desire to work together as a team on behalf of students,” Watrin said. “As long as we keep students at the heart of our thinking and discussion, they will be the real winners.”

Large notepad on table

At their Feb. 10 meeting, the CAC workshopped updates to the district’s Strategic Plan

Lindner agreed that despite the wide variety of views and opinions in the group, the process has been highly collaborative. “Everyone seems to be willing to share their own opinion but respect those of others,” he said. “I think that’s created an atmosphere where we can actually get to the best ideas as opposed to fighting for our own.”

Both Lindner and Bedrossian said they hope the result of the CAC is more community engagement and personal investment in the school district.

“I think there has been a lot of distrust and negativity that can be helped with people seeing even small changes made,” Bedrossian said. 

“I would just like to see more pride in the community, more ownership in the schools,” added Lindner. “I think that would be good.”

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