New Albany for Kids leaders Monday night presented to the school board information they had compiled during their May 19 community forum on strategic planning.

New Albany for Kids leaders Monday night presented to the school board information they had compiled during their May 19 community forum on strategic planning.

Ted Bernard, head of the local political-action committee, said his group is working on becoming a year-round organization that works to improve education opportunities for the district's children. He said the group's new mission statement would help to broaden its purpose.

"We have actively advocated for increased engagement with the community," Bernard said. "We wanted to hear about ideas and concerns. We have been focused on trying to make that happen."

He said he thought New Albany for Kids could help the board gain this information.

"We needed to take it upon ourselves to create some of that community engagement," he said. "It's about gaining not only the input but broader acceptance."

Bernard said they identified five common themes that surfaced from the nearly 60 people who attended the forum: educational excellence, innovative curriculum, leadership and vision, facilities and space planning, and broader views of collaboration and accomplishments.

Laura Kohler, who ran the forum at the New Albany 2-5 elementary school with Bernard, said the No. 1 issue among attendees was educational excellence.

"People are interested in how we define that," she said. "How do we attain it, and how do we measure it? People have a great desire to find out where we stack up."

Kohler said participants also were interested in developing depth within the district's curricula, enriching courses already offered and creating consistency among the different buildings and classrooms.

She said participants also asked for clearer leadership.

"Participants clearly want a vision and want to know the district's plans to move us there (forward)," Kohler said. "There is a recognition that we may differ in terms of our opinion, but we need to treat each other with respect and honor as we move forward. Re-establishing trust seemed also to be a powerful theme."

Bernard said each person at the forum was given five votes to select what themes they thought were most important.

"It was also an opportunity to talk about the fact that there are tough challenges because you would like them all but sometimes you have to make tough decisions," he said.

He stressed to the board that the information he and Kohler presented is about quality, not quantity.

"This is not scientific research," he said. "This is getting people together who are interested and who wanted to talk about it."

Both Bernard and Kohler said plans are in the works for similar community events.

Board member Mike Klein asked Bernard about how New Albany for Kids' new mission would affect the school district.

"Based on your new mission statement and the evolution of New Albany for Kids, do you still see yourself as a partner with the school district?" Klein asked.

Bernard said he hopes the PAC could continue as a partner to New Albany-Plain Local officials on certain functions. He stressed, though, that New Albany for Kids is separate from the school district.

Klein also asked if the organization would be willing to work with a strategic-planning facilitator, such as Santa Rita Collaborative or Cambridge Strategic Services, which board members interviewed earlier this month.

The board did not take action on a facilitator Monday.

"We continue to offer partnership to the community in general," Bernard said. "Clearly, there is a desire to have a very strong school district they can be proud of. We continue to offer a hand of collaboration when there is an opportunity to help serve our community."