There was plenty of coffee but not a lot of conversation Feb. 21 when Grandview Heights Schools Superintendent Andy Culp held the latest in his series of open-house meetings.
No residents stopped by for that day’s Coffee & Conversation, which offers community members a chance for an informal discussion with Culp and other district officials.
“It’s probably the first time we haven’t had anyone attend,” Culp said, “but this isn’t a failure by any means.”
The important thing, he said, is giving the public the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns with him in a relaxed setting.
Culp began holding the Coffee & Conversation sessions shortly after he became Grandview’s superintendent in July 2014.
Each meeting is open to the public.
“It’s an idea I had to help me establish a two-way communication with the community and to demonstrate my philosophy of being approachable and available to answer any and all questions people may have,” Culp said.
Over the years, the program has been held at various intervals, including quarterly and monthly.
Six sessions were set for the 2019-20 school year, Culp said.
“These informal get-togethers also provide me with an opportunity to share with people how we’re making progress in our mission to maximize and personalize every student’s learning,” he said.
“The attendance has varied,” Culp said. “We probably had more heavily attended meetings during the first months, and attendance picked up again when we were in the meat of our facilities-planning process leading up to our successful facilities bond issue (on the November 2018 ballot).”
Madeline Partlow, the district’s director of student services/Title IX coordinator, said the gatherings give people the chance to say what’s on their minds.
“It’s also an opportunity for them to get to know us better in an informal setting,” she said.
Partlow joined Culp for the Feb. 21 Coffee & Conversation.
“Typically, I’ll invite someone from one of our departments or a building principal or board member to participate in each meeting,” Culp said. “It allows people the chance to interact with more members of our district’s team.”
Attending a Coffee & Conversation session is valuable for her, Partlow said, because she can talk one on one with parents and community members about the programs offered through the student-services department and get their feedback.
For the Feb. 21 meeting, Partlow said, she had planned to give an update on the programs the district has in place for gifted students, its emphasis on inclusivity to include Individualized Education Program students in regular classrooms as often as possible, and the district’s expansion of mental-health services for students.
This school year, the district has used additional state grant money to allow mental-health specialist Amber Nickels to work five days each week instead of four. Nickels provides mental-health support for students at all grade levels across the district, she said.
Additional funding from ADAMH has allowed the district to host a full-time counselor from Syntero Counseling Center to provide a preventive focus, Partlow said.
While time for public comment is available at school board meetings, the policies and procedures for those meetings do not allow for two-way conversations, Culp said.
Coffee & Conversation allows “the public to talk to us face to face,” he said.
The next Coffee & Conversation session will be held from 8:15 to 9:15 a.m. April 17 in the staff lounge at Grandview Heights High School, 1587 W. Third Ave.