SOUTH BEND -- Paul Laskowski, executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County, said he hopes the South Bend school system's effort to hear what the community thinks as it adopts a statement of its vision, mission and goals isn't just rhetoric.
"Something that's done," he said, "just so the box can be checked off."
Laskowski was among just a few who participated in a focus group Monday morning at the district's Administration Building that was geared toward the business community.
The series of meetings, which are being led by Sharon Cox, a Germantown, Md.-based consultant, continue today and Wednesday.
The school board has developed a draft framework for a strategic plan that includes vision and mission statements, core principles and overarching goals.
After community input is gathered via a dozen meetings, Cox will assemble a report that'll include a culmination of all the input, along with her own recommendations for changes to the draft documents.
Likely by mid-December, she said Monday, she'll present the report to the school board to decide on final changes to the document.
At Monday morning's session, Bruce Bancroft, a local attorney, said he wished more people would have shown up.
"I think a lot of people feel it's pointless to come to a meeting like this," he said, "because the (school) board's going to do what they want to do anyhow.
"The board's been through this ugly period," Bancroft said, of the censure last week of one member. "That doesn't do a lot to build trust."
"In a community like ours," he said, "with 18, 19, 20 thousand students and you get six or 12 people (for a public input meeting), that speaks to the engagement of the community. ... Do they think this is all a charade?"
That said, Laskowski noted that the business community is interested in forming true partnerships with the schools.
As an example, he said, businesses are called upon frequently to help fund various initiatives of the school corporation's.
"We'd also like to have input," Laskowski said, "feel like we're investing vs. making a donation, (like) we're going to get a return on our investment at some point."
Laskowski said he often hears that schools in the community don't know who their customers are.
"(It's) not just the students," he said, "but the community."
Of the draft document, Bancroft said, language should be added to define the public relations plan of South Bend schools.
"The one we have is dismal," he said.