Betsy Bruns knew exactly where she wanted to put the four green dots she had been given at a community engagement session Tuesday for developing a strategic plan for Hinsdale High School District 86.
“I loaded them in one area. The district desperately needs to update our facilities,” said Bruns, a Hinsdale resident.
Participants were asked to put green and red dot stickers on posters that listed what the strategic planning team had identified as the district’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvements. A green dot showed a person strongly agreed with a comment on the poster board. The red dots were to show strong disagreement with what was written.
At least 12 green dots had been put by “Aging and dated infrastructure in need of repair,” on the list of weaknesses.
But right below it, 15 red dots had been placed where “overcrowding in one school” was listed as a weakness, meaning the people who had placed the dots did not agree that one school, namely Central, is overcrowded.
“Everyone sees the district in a different way,” said Xiaochun Tong of Willowbrook, who said she came to the session held at Hinsdale Central to become informed.
“I think this is a good beginning. It shows that (district officials) are being open. There are a lot of things I wouldn’t have known otherwise,” Tong said.
District administrators started the session with a quick but comprehensive report of data, such as enrollment trends at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South high schools, the demographics of the students at each school, the demographics and education levels of the faculty, the results of student and staff climate surveys, district finances and technology use and resources.
The district’s recently formed strategic planning team had reviewed the information more extensively at a six-hour meeting Jan. 24. The team, comprised of parents, teachers, students and community members from Hinsdale South and Hinsdale Central, then discussed what they see as the district’s advantages, shortcomings and challenges.
The wider community could share their opinions at two engagement sessions. The second session is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 12 in the auditorium at Hinsdale South High School in Darien.
“We need your help to define a new tradition of excellence,” Superintendent Bruce Law told the nearly 90 residents who attended the session at Hinsdale Central.
Nadia Arain of Oak Brook, who graduated from Central in 1995, said she attended the meeting because the oldest of her three children is a freshman at Central.
“Now is the time to start getting more involved and more knowledgeable,” Arain said.
The analysis was a very interesting way to approach issues, Tong said.
“We look at where we are currently and figure where we need to be and how to get there,” she said.
“I heard one person say, ‘This is better than yelling at each other, better than confrontation,'” Tong said.
In addition to the red and green dots, everyone was given post-it notes to write down ideas they thought were missing from those listed on the posters.
Some notes on the list of weaknesses beat a familiar refrain, such as stressing the need for a new pool at Hinsdale Central.
“Buffer zone detrimental to Hnsdale South, must be re-evaluated/phased out to balance population,” another person wrote.
“Pay for referendum and have the facilities funded,” read another note.
But the notes cited a variety of issues, such as a lack of engaged parents, students wanting a better parking system and questioning the high use of tutors by families.
The district staff will compile all the comments after the second engagement session is held.