Mehlville School District makes great strides in public communication

Mike Anthony

Mike Anthony

By MIKE ANTHONY

Since kicking off last spring, the Mehlville School District’s community-engagement program has tackled some tough topics — student achievement, facilities, technology, enrollment, staffing and finances — but perhaps none will be as important as the subject of next week’s session — public communication.

The next session of COMPASS — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools — will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, at Bernard Middle School, 1054 Forder Road, and will include a presentation by Kathleen Woehrmann, director of communications for Cooperating School Districts. We urge residents to attend Monday’s session and all future COMPASS sessions.

It’s no secret that for many years Mehlville has struggled with communicating with the public. Perhaps the nadir of those problems occurred during Tim Ricker’s tenure as superintendent. Ricker’s disdain for communicating with the public and press was evident almost from the onset of his tenure and encouraged by a Board of Education whose majority shared his shortsighted and ill-considered views on public relations.

But since Ricker’s departure — he resigned two days after voters overwhelmingly rejected an ill-conceived 97-cent tax-rate hike — the district has made great strides in its efforts to reconnect with the community and open a two-way dialogue between Mehlville officials and residents.

Besides COMPASS, residents have been able to address the board on district issues during a public forum, and board members and Superintendent Terry Noble are participating in Saturday Morning Café sessions at which residents can meet with them in an informal setting.

No one understands the importance of communication more than former board member Dan Fowler, co-chair of the COMPASS Facilitating Team.

While officials actively are working to enhance the district’s capabilities and student performance, he said any such plan “will fail” unless communication with the public is improved.

“I believe we can come up with all the great ideas of moving our school district forward,” he said. “But unless we do a better job with communicating, we will fail at that … We’re always going to have critics. We’re always going to have great supporters. We just need to do a better job of communicating.”

Because communication is a two-way street, we urge residents to do a better job of conversing as well and participate in COMPASS sessions.