Why St. Charles District 303 is creating a new citizen committee

  • St. Charles Unit District 303 school board President Carolyn Waibel

    St. Charles Unit District 303 school board President Carolyn Waibel

Posted9/9/2019 5:30 AM

In a set of strategic commitments recently rewritten by the St. Charles Unit District 303 school board, elected officials pledged to offer opportunities for community engagement, collaboration and outreach.

The creation of a new citizen advisory committee aims to carry out that promise.


The group is expected to comprise 15 to 20 members and include students, parents, teachers, administrators, local business owners and taxpayers without kids in the district, board President Carolyn Waibel said. They'll offer varying perspectives on hot-button issues, provide feedback on proposed initiatives and bring new suggestions to the table.

"We really want to have a representative from all demographics of the community (creating) ideas for the betterment of the students," Waibel said. "That's really what our goal is, to make sure we're representing the people we're elected to represent."

The citizen advisory committee replaces the former community relations committee, for which officials always struggled to determine a role, district spokeswoman Carol Smith said. The new group has a clearly defined purpose: giving the community a voice.

"We get very insulated sometimes in education, and we think we understand what people's interests are, or we think we're communicating in the way we should be," she said. "But there might be some issues or questions people have, and we go, 'Huh, we never thought about that.'

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"We really need that two-way communication."

The committee will be co-chaired by board members Jillian Barker and Becky McCabe, who have been working with Smith to create an application process and timeline. The district sent a message to parents last week informing them of the new committee, and a notice was later posted on social media.

As of Thursday, more than 30 people had applied, Smith said.

"That just tells you that families and community members are looking for a way to engage with the school district," she said. "We're really excited about it."

Applications will be accepted until Sept. 30, at which point five people will be chosen to be part of a steering committee. They will work with the school board liaisons to develop the structure of the citizen advisory committee, write the bylaws and create a meeting calendar.

Additional members will then be selected from the application pool, and the full committee will begin working in January, according to the online application. Meetings likely will be held monthly at the district's administration center and will be open to the public.

"We just want to have this larger group that brings us all those different backgrounds and ideas, and then we can use them as a sounding board as well," Smith said. "It's always good to have those fresh eyes coming in."

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