Far Northeast Community Committee 2010 - Denver, Colorado
The Far Northeast Community Committee (FNECC) represented a collaborative eight month process to help the Denver Public Schools District (DPS) identify a viable set of recommendations for changing and improving six underperforming schools in the area and increasing student achievement. PlaceMatters provided facilitation, meeting planning, and participation tools and techniques in support of the effort, specifically developing a translation module for our Brainstorm Anywhere tool to allow Spanish-speakers to participate fully in the meeting.
Brainstorm Anywhere is an online tool that allows small groups to brainstorm lists of ideas and enter them into a central database via networked laptops. Lists can then be easily sorted, categorized and prioritized using keypad polling, so having lists in multiple languages was critical to ensuring all could participate equally.
Most notably, PlaceMatters with the help of CREA Results, was successful in recruiting and sustaining the involvement of several committee Spanish-speaking parents. With PlaceMatters' Brainstorm Anywhere application and CREA Results' bilingual support, PlaceMatters made sure that language, culture, and internet access were not barriers to their participation.
DPS, A+ Denver, the Far Northeast Community Committee, and community members now have a tangible set of expectations for performance and accountability through implementation phases. The committee members also developed an appreciation for both the complexity and the iterative nature of the decisions the district makes in the decisions around turnaround schools.
The process was controversial, involving significant changes to low performing schools. PlaceMatters was successful in keeping the process fair, listening to all perspectives, and effectively involving the community in the decision making process. Federal Department of Education Office of Community Engagement director, Alberto Retana was able to attend one of the meetings and reported it as amongst the best examples of thoughtful, robust community engagement he has seen in his work in urban school districts around the United States.
Image: "Far Northeast Denver" by Matt Weinstein