After six meetings and an online survey, the Pine River-Backus School District's strategic planning process revealed some shared themes during the public input session Thursday, June 6.

A small audience gathered there, in addition to school board members, provided feedback via worksheets in which they identified the district's strengths, its needs for growth and the various visions those assembled had for the district.

Terry Quist and Jeff Olson, of the Minnesota School Board Association, were present to help guide the district through the strategic planning process. Quist said this meeting concluded the first phase of the planning process, with phase two beginning Tuesday, June 11.

The ultimate goal was to create a strategic plan laying out the mission, vision and belief statements for the district. The process was also meant to identify goals and objectives for student achievement, student support, facilities, academic programming, the work force and communication.

The five non-board members present filled out worksheets and shared their own feelings regarding the school, uncovering some shared opinions.

High School Principal Chris Halverson said he felt that the district has positive staff development opportunities and celebrates student success well.

"We have heard celebration as a theme from other groups as well," Quist said.

The subject of celebration came up several other times. Participants also identified the talented staff as a strength as well as quality extracurricular activities and fine arts programs.

Tina Hanneken kicked off discussion for areas of growth by saying the district could improve on communication.

"Even though it can be good, it can always be better," Hanneken said.

This, too, was a repeated theme. The group also discussed the district's apparent negative image to others. Hanneken said people talk about PR-B in negative terms and she would like to see that change.

Both Jeff Brown and Gretchen Koering suggested the district could improve its handling of the fine arts and other non-athletic programming. Brown said there could be more opportunities for participants in the music program, and suggested there could be more efforts to celebrate the achievements of students in fine arts.

Michael Pelham agreed, but added tech programs to that list. Brown also suggested the district could have more staff in service training, as staff development days added to the end of this past school year proved to be beneficial.

Next, the group was asked to share its vision of the school in the future.

"I kind of see the school as a community hub, a safe place to be, a pathway to the future with training, tech and preparing for careers," Brown said. "I see a greater connection with the businesses in the area."

Koering said she would like to see the school bring in more volunteers and increase involvement from the community, as most who participate now are those who always participate. Pelham and Halverson both envisioned a school that attracts more talented staff that will stay with the district as well as more student enrollment.

"There are some recurring themes here, but they also match up with the conversations we had earlier," Quist said.

The results of this year's strategic planning will be reviewed by a planning committee at meetings June 11 and July 9. A public meeting will follow July 9 at 6 p.m.. PR-B superintendent Dave Endicott followed up the meeting with a state of the district address.