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Ligonier Valley School District seeks community input

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:56 p.m.

Neva Gindlesperger, a New Florence parent, business owner and community leader, hopes that her neighbors will help to fashion the future of Ligonier Valley School District.

Gindlesperger sits on the district comprehensive planning committee, along with 23 other parents, merchants, staff and board members and taxpayers from district communities.

The group has been working since last year on a plan to outline the route to student success over the next six years.

On Feb. 5, four public input meetings will be held in Bolivar, New Florence, Ligonier and Cook Township.

“I feel like this is an excellent way to attempt to connect the community with the school district,” Gindlesperger said. “It's going to be very beneficial to have interaction from parents and other community members. Anyone that's a parent needs to participate in their son's or daughter's education, and you have to start somewhere.”

The plan — a state Department of Education requirement — is due by Nov. 30.

“We really felt like we needed to take the committee out into the community and get input into the questions we have to answer to develop good goals,” said Superintendent Chris Oldham.

A first step

Gindlesperger said since the closure of Laurel Valley Middle/High School, she sees a divided community through her son, a Ligonier Valley High School senior.

“Last year was a great year for football at Ligonier Valley,” Gindlesperger said. “We really had a lot of firsts, and it was a winning football team. But my son, he didn't feel like he could bring up his school achievements when he was at home. It was almost like he was living two lives — one in the community and one at school — because he knows that sometimes some people have a bad reaction to any news about the school district.

“Our kids have a right to be proud of their school life,” she said.

Residents who speak in opposition to district business continue to ask school board members during meetings to find a way to connect with residents from the northern end of the district.

Gindlesperger said she hopes the upcoming community input meetings serve as a first step in healing residual feelings left from the high school closure.

“Just because I'm serving on this committee doesn't mean I wasn't against the closure of Laurel Valley. But at this point, it is what it is and we have to move forward and do best by our children,” she said.

An inclusive mission

“I think we've touched on some very important issues and attempted to address the needs of our children and plan a future that involves every child's needs,” Gindlesperger said of the work so far on the six-year plan.

The most recent accomplishments include crafting a new mission statement for the district.

It reads: “Children of LVSD will be provided comprehensive educational opportunities in safe and supportive environments to maximize each child's individual potential.”

“We really wanted to emphasize the major role the community plays in the role of our children,” Oldham said. “That's why we said ‘children' instead of ‘students.' These kids are more than just students.”

Oldham has been facilitating student focus groups at Ligonier Middle and Ligonier Valley High schools.

“After I heard from the kids, they had great ideas. So you know there are people in the community, who may not have the time to go to every board meeting, who have really great ideas as well,” Oldham said.

Community input

The community meetings will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. Feb. 5 at Bolivar Fire Hall, Cook Township Community Center, Ligonier Valley High School Library and New Florence Fire Hall. In case of snow, meetings will be held on Feb. 12.

The committee will be split among the meetings to facilitate the discussion with a series of “guided questions,” Oldham said.

Those questions include:

• How can we better prepare our children to be college- or career-ready?

• What needs does our community have that the district needs to address?

• What is the best way to keep the community informed of the district's successes and challenges?

• What suggestions do you have for increasing district revenue and decreasing district expenditures?

• Define ‘success' for LVSD

• Is there a need for addition preschool experiences in our community?

Jewels Phraner is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or