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Individuals representing numerous organizations in Klamath County spent Thursday and Friday last week dreaming big for Klamath County schools and their students.

Long-term goals and priorities for the district, specifically over the course of the next five to 10 years, topped the lists during the brainstorming session, held at Klamath Community College.

Some of the goals include addressing social-emotional needs of students, reducing class sizes for elementary students, as well as increasing elective offerings for junior high and high schools within the district.

The district is compiling the input gathered at the brainstorming sessions — which drew about 45 to 50 participants over two days — to create an eventual strategic plan. The plan will be shared among participants for review and comments in March prior to pending approval by the school board.

“This is going to be great for the administration,” said Glen Szymoniak, superintendent of Klamath County School District.

“Now we know how to leverage our people and resources to head in that direction,” he added. “But also, the most valuable part is having you guys come have this conversation so that a lot of people know how and why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

“The way this plays out is, once we have the adopted strategic plan that you guys approved hopefully at the March meeting, what will happen is the board will set annual goals, depending on what’s timely,” Szymoniak said.

“We’ll set goals and we will measure and report back what’s happening in these areas,” he added.

After three to five years, Syzmoniak expects many of the goals and priorities to be in place.

“While we’re looking at a 10-year plan, we’re going to probably have to redo it again because hopefully a lot of this stuff is done after five years,” Szymoniak said. “That’s kind of the vision of this continuous improvement model, and how we report back to the community on what the school board is doing. It will be a living document.”

Julie Bettles, director of the Education and Employment Department of the Klamath Tribes, was among participants, who formulated priorities and identified needs in the district.

Bettles worked with others at the gathering on finding ways to expand community partnerships and access for students.

“It’s important to have more community involvement because of the shared vision that brings the community together,” Bettles said.

“So that everyone can actually take more shared ownership of that vision.”

Willem DeJong, a bus driver in Bonanza, shared his thoughts on the sessions as well. DeJong, one of the school district’s Crystal Apple Award winners last year, has a unique perspective being able to see students in an out-of-class scenario.

“This was enlightening in so many ways,” DeJong said. “I really feel honored that I got to be a part of this.

“I just have a heart for kids,” DeJong added. “Seeing some of the impoverished places that these kids come from.”

DeJong has mentored students on his buses and takes a keen interest in their success and well-being.

“I love the community of Bonanza,” DeJong said. “I want to see Bonanza grow and succeed and … being a bus driver is a very practical way that I can serve my community but it also opens the door for me to be apart of the school on a broader perspective.”

KCSD board member Bob Moore was one of several board members to offer his comments on the process.

“We can’t be a stagnant, status quo-type operation,” Moore said.

“This type of forum is giving us the opportunity to have a good evaluation of how all of this is going to come together and how we can make our decisions to make a much better operation.”