Coffee, conversation

The Fort Dodge Community School District invited the community Thursday to converse with Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, and Robert Hughes, assistant superintendent, over coffee and cinnamon rolls.

The gathering, attended by two parents, was held at the Iowa State University Webster County Extension Office at 7 a.m.

While administrators hold monthly coffee conversations with the staff in its buildings, this was the first community coffee.

“We’re trying to give parents and the community an opportunity to come in and just visit with us, kind of an informal opportunity to just talk about things in the district and things that hopefully are going well and some things where maybe they have concerns and we can improve upon,” Van Zyl said.

Hughes said he approached the morning without expectations.

“We want to make sure that we’re open and listening and addressing any concerns they may have, but also hearing of the great things they know their kids or grandchildren or neighbors are experiencing here at Fort Dodge,” he said.

According to Hughes, it is important to receive feedback from the community.

“We definitely want to know, and make sure we’re offering the best services in Fort Dodge that are possible,” he said. “And we love to have people come and communicate with us related to their interests and concerns.”

Loretta Lovejoy, parent to two children attending Fort Dodge Middle School, attended and spoke with FDCSD administrators.

“I’m new to the district. We just moved here,” Lovejoy said. “And I have always tried to be involved with the schools. I haven’t been able to do that just yet because we are new to the community. The announcement came on my phone, and I thought this would be a good time to meet some of the people.”

Lovejoy said, so far, she has a positive opinion of the school district.

“The kids are enjoying it,” she said. “I like that they have the pods, and all the teachers in one location so the kids aren’t walking all over the place. The class sizes are pretty good. And the curriculum, the kids are really enjoying it.”

The opportunity for conversation, Lovejoy said, is something she appreciates as a parent.

“I knew this would be beneficial,” she said. “It is hard to try to find a way to be able to get into the schools when you’re new to the community, and having a meeting where they say, just come and join in, I appreciate that.”

Van Zyl said these conversations have long been an ambition for the district.

“We’ve talked about it for a little while, and finally we just said this is really important, it’s something we need to do,” he said. “You never know exactly how it’s going to go. The turnout today was not huge, but even if one or two people come in and have an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas, to me that’s worth it.”

The conversations, also, are helpful, Van Zyl said.

“Anytime you can gather information and have conversations with people, get to know them, hopefully they get to know you a little bit,” he said, “that’s a positive thing.”

More coffee conversations are planned for January and April, with locations and times to be determined.