WORTHINGTON — Born with a goal to strengthen the relationship and communication between the school district and interested community members, a group has banded together to promote a culture where the two exist seamlessly.
Representatives of the group 518Village hope to serve as a liaison between Independent School District 518 and parents and other community members invested in the success of the community’s children.
“It takes a village,” said group creator Jess Locke of the idea behind the group, based on the well-known African proverb that means an entire community interacts to help raise a child.
Katie Kouba, a Worthington resident with three children at Prairie Elementary, is also helping to with the group's creation. She said it’s still in the infant stages, but there are many possibilities that could come from the group. They want what’s best for students, which is a common goal shared mutually between the district and parents.
“To accomplish what we all want to accomplish, there has to be a good partnership between the two,” Kouba said, adding that the idea behind the organization is to be supportive of the district.
Locke used the example of living in separate silos to articulate her grand desire of the group.
“We’re in our own silos and doing our own things and we don’t have bridges between us,” Locke said of family and school and her desire to help connect the two.
It becomes easy, Kouba said, with all the busyness in people’s lives to let the school district handle what happens at school and take over as parents in the afternoon.
But for her, it should be more than that.
“My children are young, but I’m raising adults,” she said. “I want to approach their upbringing holistically. It’s important that we work together.”
That’s where 518Village will become a useful avenue to share valuable perspectives of parents, Kouba said.
“In order for the district to be able to understand our perspective, there has to be an active effort on our part to do that,” she added.
Similarly, 518Village plans to help the district spread its messages and perspective to the broader community.
The idea for a liaison group was spurred at a District 518 school board meeting.
As someone who is still relatively new to Worthington — and with two kids attending Prairie Elementary and another in preschool — Locke decided it was time to get more involved and learn more about the district. She started regularly attending school board meetings this year. It was there she remembers a school board member mentioning a disconnect that exists between the district and its needs and some community members. She wondered what she could offer to help.
Meanwhile, Kouba had a desire to join a parent group, but didn’t know of any other interested parents. When she connected with Locke, the group was born.
Locke and Kouba stressed that the idea behind the group's formation is to provide support of the district and its staff, who have a huge influence and spend a great deal of time with the children.
The school is on board with the idea. Prairie Elementary Principal Heidi Meyer said the school is always excited to find new ways to get parents and families involved in their children’s education.
“When caregivers are open and willing to learn about how they can support learning from the home front, great things happen,” she said. “The home and school connection is so important, and this group embraces that idea in their mission.”
Kouba and Locke also see 518Village as an opportunity to connect with other parents in the district.
Parents of children at any District 518 building and community members of unique backgrounds are welcome to join and bring their perspectives to the table. Bilingual individuals will help the group have a broader perspective and communicate better with more people.
"We have the potential to build something really beautiful," Locke said. "Something that will teach our children, and ourselves, the value of investing in and connecting with one another."
The organization’s first informal meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 23 in the Worthington High School Cafeteria.
If unable to attend meetings, individuals are invited to message the group on Facebook, 518Village.