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updated: 9/27/2013 4:31 PM

District 200 poised to collect input from community

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Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 officials have been committed for months to a "community engagement process" to learn exactly which district issues are first and foremost in the minds of residents.

On Oct. 9, they'll take a key step toward achieving their goal when they vote on a roughly $50,000 contract to hire St. Louis-based Unicorn Arc to act as a facilitator for gathering that information.

Dan Burns, of Unicom Arc, presented his proposal to the school board Wednesday evening and fine-tuned his presentation Thursday morning for the district's Community Engagement Committee.

For the estimated $50,000 price tag, Burns said the process would begin in the coming weeks with formation of a 12- to 15-member facilitating team composed of staff, parents, community members and business owners to help guide the process.

The Community Engagement Committee, featuring Superintendent Brian Harris, board members Brad Paulsen and Jim Vroman, district spokeswoman Erica Loiacono and Assistant Superintendent for Educational Service Faith Dahlquist, began vetting a list of about four dozen potential team members on Thursday.

Once established, the team and Unicom would play host to a series of as many as eight workshops, beginning in December, each focusing on a specific topic as determined by the group and facilitating team.

"Its like getting a jet airplane off the ground," Burns said. "It takes a while to get it in the air, but once it's in the air it goes well."

After the six to eight meetings, the group would make a formal recommendation to the school board next spring, outlining goals it believes the district should focus on.

Committee members say they're concerned the entire process could be viewed as an attempt to drum up support for a new tax increase referendum for the Jefferson Early Childhood Center. In April, district voters resoundingly said no to building a new $17.6 million Jefferson.

"In that very first meeting we need to hear from the community what their concerns are," Vroman said. "We want honest feedback. If Jefferson is not a priority for this community, I want to hear that."

Paulsen agreed.

"We want to hear about all of the issues and priorities," he said. "This is not all about one building."

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