BOYERTOWN '' If given the chance, how would you shape education for the future of Boyertown?

Taxpayers, residents and any one else interested will get the chance during several community forum meetings to be held over the next month and a half.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for the Boyertown Area School District, Dr. Karen Beerer will head the meetings, so the community will have a say in what students should be learning.

Beerer said the district wants to be proactive with helping students' needs in a changing work environment.

Forums will start Tuesday, July 19 at 5 p.m. in Studio B in Boyertown.

The next will be held at Beck's Sea Cove Inn during the Rotary Club dinner meeting at 6:15 p.m., July 20.

For a full list of meeting times and places, visit www.boyertownasd.org.

'We came off a really difficult budget year, and we foresee difficult budget years ahead,' Beerer said. 'We thought that it was a really good time to start the strategic process, and it starts with a needs assessment.'

The public forums would be a part of the needs assessment.

Beerer said last year, before the budget season, the district attempted public forums.

She said they proved unpopular, with a lack of community attendance.

'We want to listen to the community, hear what they have to say and talk about our educational programs,' she said. 'Once we talk about what we want to see a program look like in the next five to seven years, the next thing we need to consider is how do we pay for it.'

While the public forums will not be about the budget, Beerer said the meetings will help the district elicit ideas from residents and the community.

'These forums serve as one piece of data as we determine what the goals are for the district,' she said. 'Once we talk about our goals, then we can talk about finances. A part of that process is going to have to be how do we continue to do more with less?'

In these past six months, when budgets have been ugly, districts have done a wide variety of things, like holding town meetings, Beerer said.

With the public forums, the district will be taking ideas with education first instead of money.

Each hour-long forum will attempt to put residents and community members in focus group to play up their strengths.

'It's also a way to involve a large number of people and tap into their strengths,' Beerer said. 'The forums also driven by what we need for our students, which always has to be at the forefront of our decision making.'

The district developed an electronic survey to send out to Boyertown graduates to track their professional progress after graduation.

Beerer said the district wanted to see if graduates had attained the goals they sought out for since graduation and to get some feedback.

She said the district was also looking to do exit interviews with current seniors in regards to their Boyertown school district experience.

While Beerer said each interview would be a face-to-face 20 minute interview with 50 students invited, only one has responded so far.

Matthew Reichl is the editor of The Boyertown Area Times. He can be reached by phone at 610-367-6041, ext. 640, via e-mail at mreichl@berksmontnews.com, Twitter at @boyertowntimes and Facebook at www.facebook.com/theboyertownareatimes.

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