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"Study Circles to connect SK businesses, community"
"Business people, the school district, and residents of South Kitsap will come together to adopt a program designed to strengthen community ties and make plans to remedy local issues.The program, known as Study Circles, is an effort to discuss issues that are important to the community and gain input from the public it affects. The main issue that will be focused on is the South Kitsap School District and the way that education pertains to the community as a whole.Study Circles is a project that has been used around the country in mediating and getting community involvement about topics that directly impact them. It is a highly democratic process that allows people to share views in small groups, said Wayne Senter, a coordinator and Fire District 7 Assistant Fire Chief.In South Kitsap, the program will last for six weeks. People who are interested sign up, receive an information packet, and will attend weekly hour and a half meetings. The meetings will be held in morning, afternoon, and evening sessions (to accommadate work or other previous engagement schedules), and two trained facilitators will preside over each meeting to help with questions or to stimulate and focus discussion.Anyone is eligible, said Senter of the people that should get involved with Study Circles. We are recruting students, people that have kids in school...anyone who is interested in our school system in South Kitsap. Almost everybody has an opinion.Coordinators of the program have projected a number of 30 groups of 10 participants (about 300 total), and most of the meetings will take place at area fire stations, focusing on a general question regarding the school district with discussion stemming from there.At the end of the six weeks, all of the groups will culminate for a wrap up to prioritize results that come from the discussions.I can guarantee something will come of it, said Wayne Senter. We will identify a couple of priority issues and then a steering committee will consider making recommendations for action forums to explore the steps to develop action plans that address these priorities.The kick-off event for the program will be on April 26 at First Lutheran Chuch (2483 Mitchell Rd.) from 7-8 p.m. with guest speaker Dick Anderson of the Edge Learning Institute, and people can sign up and choose the site and time that will best fit their personal agenda and needs.How the meetings are run will be determined once the circles meet together and discuss the way they want to do things.Most of that is up to the group, said Senter. The whole focus is how the group wants to proceed. The wrap-up session for the groups will be on June 7 at 7 p.m. at First Lutheran Church, and Wayne Senter believes that there will be two major benefits from the process: that the community will benefit becuase they will understand the issues and be able to provide information, and the school system will have a better connection with the community and will have more information prior to making executive decisions.We'd like to make our community better and work closer together, said coordinator Cindy Robinson.It'll only be successful if people particpate from all sects of the community, said Wayne Senter. It boils down to improving our relationship. We can't do that until we sit down and talk.For more information, contact Cindy Robinson at 895-6163 or go to the Study Circles website at www.studycircle.org. "