In an effort to better understand the needs of the community it serves, the District 91 Board of Education has begun the process of searching for Forest Park residents to participate in focus groups to identify district core values.

The district wants to hear the opinions and experiences of various members of the community to help the school board construct an updated set of core values. Community core values are guidelines used by the board to create district-wide strategies that accomplish tasks community members say are most important for their children.

At every school board meeting, members and administrators cite the district’s core values when discussing action items, explaining how certain policies would best carry out specific ideals identified by the community.

Ten years after the district first polled the community to construct its initial set of community core values in 2007, the district felt now was a good time to re-evaluate the changing needs of the community and update district policies to reflect the current priorities of Forest Park residents.

According to district public relations manager Rebecca Latham, the initiative is underway with the help of the district’s citizens advisory council, a group of village parents and representatives from Forest Park’s public service agencies, including the park district, library and village council.

The citizens advisory council developed a list of 27 demographically-unique categories of Forest Park residents, including current district parents, former parents, locals who home-school their children, parents of private school children, recent student graduates, locals without children, senior citizens and members of various community organizations.

“It is important to note that of the sample of categories, the citizens advisory council established identifiable communities that should extend to all focus groups such as people of color, parents of mixed ethnicity, members of the LGBTQ community, members of the English As a Second Language community and families that rent,” Latham explained.

To reach out to residents, the district has alerted parents through the district’s social media outlets as well as through community update postings on the Forest Park Review’s website.

Forest Parkers who would like to have the chance to participate are first asked to fill out a demographic questionnaire which is a Google document that asks for a name, address, race, age, connection to the district and the village, and specific personal identification within the community.

After the board and advisory council receive the initial questionnaires, the district will select participants for the actual focus groups to create the list of core values.

“It is likely that there will be overlap in the demographic categories of the participants, which will assist in capturing a diverse sample of people,” Latham added.

The district plans to have 60 people participating in the focus groups. The individuals selected for the groups will be divided into five or six groups, which will be led by an independent moderator from a local market research organization chosen by the district. Those selected for the focus groups will be given $100 for their participation.

The focus groups will be held later this month and the district plans to roll out the updated core values at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.