As part of ongoing efforts to keep the lines of communication open, Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer is forming a community advisory team.

The team will be open to parents, business leaders and patrons who have an interest in the district.

VanLeer said the team’s purpose will be to gain awareness and knowledge about the school district and to advise the administration on educational issues affecting the school community.

“We have been engaging the school community in an ongoing way for the last three years,” she said. “It is important for us to develop awareness about our district as it exists today, just as it is important to discuss the direction in which we wish to go in the future.

“We recognize that the quality of education in our district is vitally important to our overall success as a community,” she added.

VanLeer said she is still working out the details, but her preliminary plans are to meet monthly, with one month being in an electronic format and the next month holding a morning meeting from 7 to 8 a.m. A light breakfast will be provided.

In addition, one meeting during the school year will be held over lunch and will include a school tour, likely to be scheduled in early spring.

At each meeting, VanLeer and other appropriate personnel will speak to the topics listed on the agenda. Members also will discuss any of the topics presented, as well as respond to questions and provide feedback.

“Team members can ask questions during the meeting and/or leave questions for consideration at future meetings,” VanLeer said.

Sample agenda topics include academic performance and improvement planning, future construction, demographic data awareness, legislation affecting public schools, school funding, Missouri School Improvement initiatives, bond issues and communication strategies.

VanLeer said more detailed information will be forthcoming on how to get involved, specific dates and contact information.

“I will let the group decide if they want to make a one or two-year commitment, and also ask their help in recruiting their replacement,” she said. “I have no idea on the size of the advisory team, but all who are interested are welcome to take part. I hope to have 50 or more and would like each attendance area in the district represented.”

VanLeer hopes to hold the first meeting in September after the new school year gets under way.

A separate advisory group comprised of staff also may be formed, and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Judy Straatmann may form a group as part of the her work to update the district’s comprehensive school improvement plan.