Gathering with a Purpose

When extraordinary people come together, unprecedented changes are bound to happen. The Region 16 Comprehensive Center (R16CC) Advisory Board aims to be such a group.

R16CC’s Advisory Board Program members first gathered in September to discuss topics in education that our region could come together around in order to transform educational outcomes for students in our region.

They gathered again in October to narrow down their areas of focus and begin discussing ways they could engage educators, parents, students, and community members in pursuit of these opportunities.

Each time the Advisory Board meets, they aim to gain a clearer vision of how to bring together our region on topics that help eliminate many of the systemic issues that hamper education.

“We [are] not holding our time together with our advisors as a one and done, check the box event,” says R16CC Director Bernie Sorenson. “[Each meeting] was one of many times and touch points we will have along the way.”

Based on interviews with board members, the R16CC Advisory Board uncovered key topics where the region can come together to learn about with and from each other.

Topics include: Native education, teacher retention and diversity, equity and inclusion, and social-emotional learning. These topics will be narrowed down to two actionable objectives that build the capacity of teachers, leaders, and educators in our region during the November Advisory Board gathering.

Once identified, regional convenings around these two topics will be held over the upcoming year. The Advisory Board will continue providing advice and guidance along the way to R16CC to ensure the regional gatherings are creating the desired impact and outcomes.

By taking an honest look at its impact at the regional and state levels, the Region 16 Comprehensive Center Advisory Board Program aims to grow the regional capacity for educators across our state to make education better and more inclusive for all students in our region.

“Public education is a community resource that is systematically disproportionately benefiting some communities and harming others,” said one board member while encouraging others’ to consider the importance of equity.

“This program was intentionally designed to use the information we gathered beforehand and begin using our advisors’ wisdom and insight right away,” Sorenson stated. “The follow up with summaries, etc., also signal that this program values their experience and expertise.

“So, I guess what makes it successful is as much about the touch points of connection R16CC had with our members before the gathering, during the gathering, and over the next several months.”

The gatherings consisted of discussions held in one-to-one, small, and large group formats. Breakaway group discussion included notes on key points of emphasis on the selected topics.

A positive view of the future has emerged in the meeting’s group forum, and it’s just the beginning.

“This is not so much a traditional advisory board,” said Sorenson. “We have created a journey with many touch points that include virtual gatherings as only one way to engage as advisors. I am deeply excited about that journey and the possibility it holds.”

Feedback from the gatherings from members has been positive. Board members appreciate that R16CC provides a forum for conversations to help shape the projects and eagerly await the next time they gather together. Members are ready to take action in the upcoming advising convenings.

The third gathering of the R16CC Advisory Board is slated to take place on November 18.

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