WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Engaging the Community to Improve the School District

Oct 17, 2017

The West Prairie District 103 Board of Education is working to address challenges and create a vision for the coming years, and it is asking for help from the public.

The board has started a community engagement project called Impact 103.  The plan is to hold four Community Engagement Sessions, the first of which took place October 12.  It drew around 100 people.

“I’m very happy with the turnout,” said Kara Hunt, co-chair of the project.

“The only thing we can hope for in the future is that all of these people go home and spread the word so that at our next meeting we’ll have double what we have here tonight.”

The committee consists of community and staff members. Neither Hunt nor fellow co-chair Matt Reynolds serve on the school board. They agreed to chair the committee to help out the district and make sure all voices are heard.

“The school board was concerned as for the number of parents that felt like they were not involved.  We formed this committee to facilitate, (to hear) the people’s voices and give them an opportunity to get their opinions out there,” said Reynolds.

Impact 103 co-chairs Matt Reynolds and Kara Hunt
Credit Rich Egger

Participants were asked during the first session to name their biggest concerns about the school district.  Responses varied but common themes included:

  • The decline in student enrollment -- figures from the district show an 18% drop in the past decade.
  • The sharp decrease in state funding for public schools.  In its first year of operation in 2003, West Prairie received 52% of its revenue from local taxpayers, 42% from the state, and 6% from the federal government.  Now the breakdown is 70% local, 22% state, and 8% federal.
  • The cost of transportation – the district covers a large geographic area.
  • The age and upkeep of school district buildings – the high school and the south elementary school were built in the 1950s, the middle school in the 1960s, and the north elementary school in the mid-1970s.
  • The curriculum available at the high school – some participants felt West Prairie students seem less prepared for college.

The next Community Engagement Session is scheduled for November 15, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m., at the Spoon River College Community Outreach Center on East Jackson Street in Macomb.

The final two session will be held early in 2018.

The West Prairie School District formed when voters in April 2003 overwhelmingly agreed to consolidate the Colchester and Northwestern School Districts.