WB to offer ‘Coffee Talks’

Informal meetings with schools superintendent to provide info, hear concerns

West Branch Coffee Talks

Hosted by Schools Superintendent Timothy Saxton

9:30 a.m. in the high school auditorium lobby

–Monday, Dec. 18

–Tuesday, Jan. 23

–Thursday, Feb. 15

–Friday, March 16

–Wednesday, April 25

BELOIT — Residents and parents in the West Branch Local School District are being invited to sit down with the superintendent to discuss operations and concerns.

Schools Superintendent Timothy Saxton has planned a series of “Coffee Talks” to discuss district initiatives and the Strategic Planning Process as well as listen to community or parent concerns. The talks will be held at 9:30 a.m. in the high school auditorium lobby, where guests can grab a cup of coffee and hear about the district happenings. Guests are asked to park near and enter the auditorium doors.

The “Coffee Talk” dates for this school year are Monday, Dec. 18; Tuesday, Jan. 23; Thursday, Feb. 15; Friday, March 16; and Wednesday, April 25.

According to Saxton, similar planning advisory committee meetings have been held before, but that a large part of the group was no longer attending, had lost interest or felt the need for a change of format.

“After looking for a different way to connect with district stakeholders and wanting to issue an open invite to those who hadn’t been able to participate, I decided to move in this direction,” he said.

The initiatives include a wide variety of aspects across the district such as technology upgrades, safety training and literacy programming, along with other curriculum upgrades in mathematics texts/materials at the high school level, Advanced Placement courses at the high school and STEM programming at the middle school, according to Saxton. The administration has evaluated each curricular area and worked with consultants and teaching staff to improve or change how the district addresses student achievement.

“As far as the strategic plan, the board and administration have weighed in on it, but this ‘broad’ goal-oriented plan covers several areas that I believe need discussed with non-district personnel, [such as] parents, community members and even students. It is a district plan, and should be completed by all involved,” he said.

Saxton said he hopes people attend with an open mind to learn and share, taking the opportunity to receive updates on a variety of topics.

“I would hope that people take advantage of the time without any ‘agendas…,'” he explained. “I would like people to attend who have a genuine interest in what’s occurring in the district, may be looking for the truth about a particular program or concern, and want to give their input in a non-judgmental forum.”

A strong proponent of external communication and engagement, Saxton said the sharing of information is a key goal for him as superintendent. Since his hire before the last school year, the district has established a Facebook page, revised its website and instituted an online, paperless system for conducting school board meetings.

The increased communication effort allows the administration to “blanket the district in a manner so that there are multiple avenues for information to flow out and allow all stakeholders to find information when and if needed,” according to Saxton.

“Too many times, I see districts forget about the communication needed to all members of the public, because most do not know how much public education has changed and often times refer back their own experience, which could have been 10, 20, 30, 40 plus years ago. We must convey the changes over time and share how we have met the requirements, with little change in funding, decreased state and local support, and significant pressure to change the way things are done instructionally–a good thing–but many folks do not know what has changed and often refer back to their own experience.”

Through the “Coffee Talks,” community members will have the opportunity to speak with Saxton directly.

“Many people often feel intimidated or don’t have the chance to interact with me because of my varying job duties. These “Coffee Talks” allow me to schedule and announce a time when the open invitation exists for anyone to attend and address concerns, ask questions or hear about the district initiatives,” he said.

“I am still new to the district, come and meet me, listen to what’s going on and ask the questions you want to ask. If you can’t attend, call or email me and I will try to get the information out as soon as possible.

“I am truly interested in what people have to say, and have listened in my short tenure to many of the comments or concerns thrown my way in the district survey we conducted last year as part of the Ohio Improvement Process. As I have said before, the change process is a marathon and not a sprint. Come out and meet with me, I’ll listen and take the information provided to help move our district forward in multiple areas.”

Saxton can be reached at 330-938-9324 or timothy.saxton@wbwarriors.org.