In Brown Deer Schools, a pair of transformations

Administrators want community input on district's future

Feb. 5, 2013

Brown Deer - On any given day the Brown Deer School District campus bustles with a mingling of students and construction workers, a mixture of backpacks and hard hats, calculators and cranes. And as the district transforms - quite literally - with its $22 million in referendum-funded renovations and construction, administrators are looking for community input on how to transform the way Brown Deer delivers education in the 21st century.

Along with an upcoming survey on the 2013-14 calendar, the district will question residents on a variety of topics like technology access, world language programs, dress codes, and potential names for the district's new buildings.

"It just seems to be a natural flow of the process," said Superintendent Deb Kerr of the outreach effort. The survey questions are taking the place of a district "Transformation: Reinventing Brown Deer Schools" meeting which was canceled after a pair of lockdowns Jan. 29, and precede an additional pair of community input sessions on March 2 and April 30.

With community input, said Kerr, the district can begin to shape a long-term plan geared toward 21st century learning and take advantage of the new facilities, so that "over the next five years we know where we're going."

Time sensitive

Several of the transformation subjects, Kerr said, are tied to the 2013-14 budgeting process and are therefore more time sensitive than others, like technology access, potential additions to the district's world language offerings, and naming of the district's new buildings. After the renovations, kindergarten through sixth grade will be consolidated into one building, and seventh through 12th grade in another.

The district wants to know what level of technology should be available in the classroom, as well as what sort of technology parents would allow students to use in a "bring your own device" scenario, which is becoming more commonplace in schools. Kerr acknowledged the district could end up dealing with equity issues when it comes to technology.

"We'd have to make sure there could be access if kids aren't allowed or able to bring their own," Kerr said.

Parents will also be asked which world language, or languages, the district should include beyond its current offerings of Spanish and German, how early the languages should be offered, and whether the district should consider integrated or immersion programs.

The clock is also ticking on ordering signage for the two new buildings. A number of potential names for the schools have been floated. Kerr said she wants the names to say something about the district.

"I want people to know we have really high expectations," she said.

Food for thought

Also included in the survey will be questions on long-term initiatives like a possible dress code. Kerr described the Brown Deer campus as a "64-acre classroom," and said the district will look for new opportunities in the new facilities. Having students of varying grade levels in the same building, she said, could open up a number of possibilities for students to work with others of varying ages.

"We can use mixed-age opportunities to help kids be more independent and learn from each other," Kerr said.

At the same time, administrators want ideas on how to put the revamped campus to work through new outdoor programs.

"We want our kids to have a high level of health and wellness now," Kerr said.

Online learning is another point of interest in the survey questions. Kerr wants to know which courses parents think could benefit from an online platform, and when they should be offered.

She said that with a growing number of web-based courses offered each year at colleges and universities around the country, students should be familiar with the idea of learning online.

"All kids, as we think about graduation, should take an online course to be prepared for college."

More information on the district's transformation initiative is available through the district website at:

- Michael Meidenbauer

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