After a presentation by the superintendents, who identified themselves as teachers at heart, the community broke into eight groups to discuss big ideas from the presentation and to come up with next-step ideas. Ideas included continued collaboration by the two districts, using different teaching methods and reconsidering the way classroom learning is structured.
Coleman and LaFavers got together on the community forum because this is what Coleman calls a "group project." Even though each district offers different programs, there are some services they share.
"There is work that is common to all schools," Coleman said.
Teachers now have to think differently and think about the global world, LaFavers said. Students no longer are competing with students in the same city, but also students across the country and the globe.
Teachers need to use tools to engage students
Teachers and school officials are trying to think in progressive terms, such as how can teachers teach kids using materials that interest them, such as video games and texting?
Even with the challenges facing schools, LaFavers said the districts have great teachers and officials, which is a powerful message for students, parents and the community.
"We're the key to turning things around," he said.
Before the forum, the superintendents asked that the community submit questions and many of the questions focused on money. LaFavers said about 80 percent of each district's budgets go toward personnel.
But in a tough economy, school administrators are looking at each situation as an opportunity, LaFavers said. Schools are thinking creatively and looking for new ways to fund important school programs.
"We're only limited by our imaginations," Coleman said.
Continuing to mimic the classroom, Coleman and LaFavers asked the community to fill out exit slips before they left. The exit slip asked what stood out from the forum and what the districts' next steps are.
Even though there are challenges ahead for each district, Coleman said they're ready to meet them.
"We are so excited," she said. "But we have to face the brutal facts."
The superintendents decided to hold a forum together while preparing for a presentation at a Danville/Boyle County Chamber of Commerce meeting in October.
LaFavers and Coleman requested questions from the community to address at the forum. Many of the questions submitted were too specific to a district or school for the forum. Those questions will be followed up by the superintendents by e-mail, LaFavers said.