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Board approves new listening session format to increase dialogue and engagement with the community

Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2019 — At its meeting on Monday, Sept. 23, the South St. Paul School Board approved a new format for its listening sessions with the goal of encouraging more authentic engagement with parents and community members. The new listening session format will start at the Board’s next meeting on Monday, Oct. 14. 

“The best part of this change is that we will be able to have a real conversation with anyone who shows up,” said Board Chair Chris Walker. “With our previous format, we were able to just listen. But the new format affords us the opportunity to have a discussion, ask questions, and dig deeper into a topic with members of our community.” 

At the request of the Board, district staff surveyed other Dakota County school districts last spring to determine how they were conducting various components of School Board meetings. Over the next few months, the School Board spent time unpacking the results of the survey and began setting a vision for school board meeting structures in South St. Paul (SSP), focusing on: 

  • increasing and improving transparency;
  • allowing for easy and user-friendly access to the work of the School Board;
  • increasing and improving community engagement; and
  • showcasing more of the good work being done in the district.


Walker added that all School Board members and the Superintendent value public input in the deliberations and decisions of school district matters. “Listening sessions are designed to create a more informal setting for community members to engage in conversations with board members about school or district ideas, concerns, feedback and questions,” he said.

Starting with the Oct. 14 meeting, listening sessions will be held for 25 minutes prior to each regular School Board meeting. The sessions will begin at 6:45 p.m. and held in the second floor conference room at SSP City Hall Conference Room (across the hall from Council Chambers). 

Listening sessions will be hosted by a rotating three-person subgroup as well as the superintendent. Citizens wishing to take part in the listening sessions are encouraged to review the meeting guidelines and to sign-up ahead of time if possible. A schedule of school board meetings is available on the district’s website at Listening sessions, like other posted board meetings, are open to the public. 

Additional information about the new listening sessions: