Coffee and conversations: MCHS principal begins new event to gather community feedback
December 16, 2011
At a Glance …
• Thom Schnellinger, Moffat County High School principal, begins a regular event to gather feedback from parents and the public.
• Coffee With the Principal takes place twice a month at public venues in Craig.
• Schnellinger started the gathering in response to waning attendance at MCHS’ School Accountability Committee meetings.
• Principal: Partnerships with parents, community are vital to raising expectations for students.
The Village Inn in Craig was nearly empty at 6 a.m. on a cold Thursday morning.
Thom Schnellinger, Moffat County High School principal, sat alone at a booth, with a sign on the table announcing his purpose at the restaurant.
"Join me for coffee," it reads.
Welcome to the second session of Coffee With the Principal, a regular event Schnellinger started this month in an effort to gather feedback from parents and the public.
Schnellinger plans to host similar meetings in the future at various public venues in Craig.
The event takes place twice a month — at least that's the plan for now.
Schnellinger is still tweaking the details.
Given the scarce turnout at the first two meetings, both of which started at 6 a.m., the time may be one of the first things to change, he said.
Declining attendance at the high school's School Acc-
ountability Committee meetings prompted the idea. About 15 people on average come to the meetings in the fall, but that number usually drops in the winter months.
Just two people attended December's SAC meeting.
"It's just waning," Schnellinger said.
Coffee With the Principal won't replace SAC meetings, but Schnellinger hopes it will give residents another means to express their questions and concerns.
"I am very interested in just trying to get people's input as much as possible," he said.
The idea of an administrator going out to the community isn't new.
The Moffat County School District is using it in other ways, Superintendent Joe Petrone said.
He's started hosting district administrative meetings at different places in the community, like The Memorial Hospital.
"So, we're trying to get out of our confines and meeting the community in their territory, if you will — in the business community and the wider community," Petrone said.
The concept is part of a larger effort to build partnerships with parents and other residents.
"The vision of the school district outlines expectations to have stakeholder commitment and participation, which includes parents and (the) community," he said.
Although no one came to the event Thursday morning, Schnellinger believes it's still fulfilling a purpose.
As he sat at the table, a carafe of coffee and his planner close at hand, he read a three-page email from a high school parent who couldn't make the meeting.
"Whether people come or whether it solicits a conversation (and) somebody emails me, all of that is good communication and good input," he said.
Parent involvement is vital, Schnellinger said.
MCHS administrators and teachers are making an effort to raise expectations for students, but they need help from people outside the school to do it.
"For my teachers, in all honesty, they have to … be certain that … the community and parents are in a firm partnership in regard to raising that bar and setting that standard," he said.
The next Coffee With the Principal events are scheduled for Jan. 19 and 26, with the time and location to be determined.
Schnellinger said his door is open to parents during the school day, too.
He can be reached at 826-6550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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