From Our Superintendent

 Karen Brofft

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Karen Brofft

“At its best, deliberation helps participants work through the tough choices and tradeoffs inherent in public decision as well as helps participants identify the shared interests or common ground that exists across diverse perspectives.”
Martín Carcasson, Ph.D., “Beginning with the End in Mind:
A Call for Goal-Driven Deliberative Practice”

Communication at its very best develops understanding for working together to solve what experts have coined “wicked problems.” These problems often present paradoxes that cannot be solved in a technical manner. In many cases, a wicked problem requires difficult choices between competing values. Successfully moving beyond tensions requires a different approach: deliberative engagement.

In September, Lewis-Palmer School District hosted a Community Engagement Seminar and invited the community to join us in learning about wicked problems and how to discuss them. Since then, LPSD has provided additional training in deliberative engagement and other opportunities where we have practiced these skills. Real community involves real disagreements. Brené Brown, in Braving the Wilderness, shares that “As we take sides, lose trust, and get angrier and angrier, we not only solidify an idea of our enemy, but also start to lose our ability to listen, communicate, and practice even a modicum of empathy.” Her comment illustrates what happens if we don’t engage with those who have a different point of view and listen with the intent of uncovering values and gaining understanding.

We will continue listening to our community and gathering input through these deliberative discussions. Discussing issues from different vantage points in a safe environment, free from verbal attacks, opens our minds, produces understanding, establishes common ground, and generates mutually workable options. We received positive feedback from our D38 Deliberates session in November. The topics we examined using this process were quite different. First, we discussed two options for sixth grade students (middle school or elementary school) and then moved on to discussing what to do with the Grace Best facility. We heard great ideas and realized how powerful this approach can be.

These discussions are great models for our students as well. Civil discourse is a necessary skill for all citizens. In or out of classrooms, dealing with diverse points of view can be challenging. Part of our responsibility as educators is modeling appropriate means of disagreeing and finding solutions since belief systems will always vary.

This spring, LPSD will provide further opportunities to gather feedback from the community. Since we are in the business of preparing engaged citizens for the future, we will practice what we teach. According to Spath and Dahnke, “[Civility] is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same.” As educators, we will continue learning alongside our students, and we will continue inviting the public to partner with us as we critically analyze, thoughtfully question, and purposefully negotiate agreed upon solutions for all of our futures.