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School officials gather community input

New Richmond's Leadership Trust Initiative is all about developing local leaders and now those leaders want to help better the community.

One leadership team, consisting of Bill Knutson, teacher; Morrie Veilleux, district administrator; Tom Heintz; Garry Krause; and Andrew Marrier, has set forth to get feedback from the community regarding the local schools.

On April 19 at 7 p.m. residents are invited to gather at New Richmond High School's auditorium for a "Community Conversation" about the schools and the community's vision for the district in the next 10 years.

"We have an opportunity to develop a better relationship with the community," Knutson said.

The project is being organized through the Leadership Trust Initiative, an organization designed to help "citizens to identify, fulfill, and sustain their capacity as leaders and to contribute to our community's sustainability and self-determination." Knutson said the program helps individuals identify their strengths and how they can use those strengths to improve the community.

Before moving forward with the project, the leadership team sought support from the New Richmond Board of Education, which welcomed the project with open arms.

Rick Hinz, school board president, said the project fits in perfectly with the board's goal of bettering communication between the school board and the community.

At the Community Conversation meeting, organizers hope residents will share their ideas and concerns.

"As a group we thought the voices of the community weren't being heard enough," Knutson said. "We hope this will help us identify what the community thinks we do well and what we can do better."

After the initial meeting, organizers will sort through the information gathered and identify common themes. From there, goals will be created and implementation plans will be put in place at each of the schools.

"Next year, in March or April, we'll meet again and review it and explain what did and didn't work and we'll start the process again," he said.

The community conversation is open to all. There is no agenda and the conversation will not be led by anyone from the schools.

"We're not going to guide the conversation at all," Knutson said. "We hope the ideas come out and the community is very honest with us. We're hoping for a diverse group of people."

The meeting will include presentations from Joe Huftel, New Richmond campus administrator at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College; Jessica Ferguson, director of curriculum and instruction; and Dave Schleh, St. Mary's University adjunct professor.

"The speakers will give those in the audience an idea of what is expected of the students," Knutson said.

There's no need to RSVP for the meeting, Knutson said. Just show up and be ready to share your thoughts.

"We're really hoping to have a wide range of people there," he said. "From parents to the elderly - every voice is valuable."

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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