Community listening sessions begin tonight for USD 259

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) —  It’s been a little more than three months since Dr. Alicia Thompson took the role as the Wichita School District’s new leader. Since then, she’s been meeting with staff and students to get feedback on the district’s future.

She is now looking to get input from the Wichita community. Starting tonight, Thompson will host Community Listening Sessions.

The listening sessions are part of Superintendent Thompson’s entry plan — this essentially outlines specific strategies she will use to learn more about the district, the students, staff and the community.

Some might already know Thompson is no stranger to the district, as she attended Wichita Public Schools as a child — graduating from Wichita Heights High School.

According to the superintendent, over the last eight years, a lot of things have changed that haven’t been good for the district.

Thompson said she wants to revision how the district works and does things for its students and their families, and this is why the listening sessions are important to her. She wants to see where the district stands right now, so district leaders can build a new strategic plan.

Thompson explained that she wants to involve all stakeholders, as this is the only way to build a better school district.

“I just believe that all community members want Wichita to be the best it can be,” said Thompson. “One piece that is so important for us, for economic development and recruitment of people into the city, is the importance of a quality public school system.”

During the listening sessions, participants will share their perspective on four different questions:

  • What is Wichita Public Schools doing well?
  • What areas present the greatest challenges for the school district?
  • What needs to be done in order to move the district forward?
  • How can we best communicate with you to promote an open and transparent district culture?

Thompson said she would like to have a full house at each session, but she acknowledged some people might not be able to attend. However, she still wants their input. The district has an online survey on their website, where people can answer those same questions.

Once all seven of the listening sessions wrap up at the end of November, the school district will collect all the input they’ve received — this includes other listening sessions with staff, students and business leaders. From there, Thompson said district leaders will build a new strategic plan around common themes.

“What we want to be able to do is to make sure all things are recorded, but we won’t be able to do everything everybody wants us to be able to do, of course,” she said. “We will lift out those themes that we heard over and over and over. Then we’ll build our plans around those themes.”

According to Thompson, the strategic plan should be ready by March 2018 for the school board to review.

The first listening session will happen at Wilbur Middle School, on North Tyler.

All sessions are from 6-7:30 p.m., and will be attended by a school board member:

  • Tuesday: Wilbur Middle School — President Mike Rodee (District 5)
  • Thursday: Brooks Middle School — Vice president Betty Arnold (District 1)
  • Nov. 2: Chester Lewis — Sheril Logan (District At-Large)
  • Nov. 14: Pleasant Valley Middle School — Senator Lynn Rogers (District 6)
  • Nov. 28: Mead Middle School — Barbara Fuller (District 3)
  • Nov. 30: Hamilton Middle School — Stan Reeser (District 4)

Childcare will be provided, as well as a snack for all children. For more information, visit the district’s website.