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District Seeks Feedback on Capital Plans

Kicking off Tuesday night is Bedford Central's 'Community Investment Program' which aims to build public support around its schools' overhaul. March bond vote eyed.

Over the past few years, Bedford Central schools have prided themselves on becoming increasingly transparent in their communications. Messages are sent via eNewsletter, podcast, the district website and in meetings on campus and in the community.

And yet, Superintendent Jere Hochman says, there are still individuals who ask "why didn't I know about" a particular topic.

"The biggest challenge is finding out from them, 'how can we communicate better with you?' Not, 'how can the district communicate better?' Specifically, how do we reach those with whom our communications are not being received," he said.

To address that challenge and get folks involved in learning about the district's ambitious plan for the district is tonight kicking off its annual feedback gathering process—known in prior years as "Future Focus"—with a meeting of citizen advisory committees and the board of education under the auspices of a new brand-name: Community Investment Program (CIP).

"It's the proverbial hub of the wheel to insure we maximize input from all voices and two-way communications," said Hochman. "Because the capital plan includes so many technical and informational components, we have formalized the organization of the work to insure we collect and consolidate advice from all groups."

The process will be used to guide an expansive plan, which includes a massive overhaul of West Patent Elementary School, improved science labs and cafeteria for Fox Lane Middle School, turf field replacement at Fox Lane High School and a series of lower-level repairs for various buildings.

At the end of the process is a major bond vote scheduled for next March.

Tonight's information meeting is at 6:30 p.m., in the Fox Lane Middle School cafeteria. Additionally, the school board will hear an update presentation at its meeting, which starts after 8 p.m. in the middle school's Little Theatre.

For voluntary CIP Chair Christina Dochtermann, the renovations signify more than better bricks and mortar.

"It's an opportunity for BCSD to communicate its vision for excellence in education, to maintain the best environments for our students to thrive and educators to be empowered and connected," said Dochtermann, mother of a fifth-grader at West Patent and a middle-schooler at Fox Lane.

She said she got involved because of her interest in maintaining a strong public school system.

"I was honored to accept this challenge because in doing so I am informed in significant decisions affecting my children, family, schools, community and real estate. It's also exciting to get to collaborate with others from across our public schools, private schools and various groups and constituencies from across our 59 square mile district," she said.

Tonight's meeting will include, according to Hochman:

  • A brief overview of work to date;
  • A report on demographics (neighboring districts have a trend of declining enrollments, unlike BCSD;
  • An overview of the timeline of the work of all committees, and
  • An appeal for "questions, myths, rumors, curiosities, and ideas" for the committee to research and prepare responses.

The committee's next steps include reviewing data that will be collected through internet and telephone public opinion surveys this fall. The CIP will update the school board at the Nov. 14 school board meeting.

A community-wide presentation is planned for Nov. 28.

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