FREDERICKTOWN — Schools and government are intertwined but don’t necessarily work in lockstep.
Both have their own administrative and elected boards. Both have their own treasurer, their own mayoral figure.
But they’re not the same, as they have separate duties.
At Knox Pages’ “Talk the Vote” event last fall, Fredericktown citizens said they wanted stronger communication between the school district’s board of education and its municipality, particularly when it comes to economic revitalization.
The reality is the district and government do have a mechanism for ongoing communication. It’s been in place for at least 25 years, and comes in the form of multiple liaisons, each charged with connecting the school board with other key community entities.
The Fredericktown Board of Education has several liaisons within it, one being vice president Donald Falk. He’s a liaison for Fredericktown’s Community Development Foundation (FCDF), founded in 1981 to help revitalize the village’s economy, particularly its downtown efforts.
“We are fortunate in Fredericktown to haves such a hard-working, high-performing community foundation,” Falk said. “It continues to be a tremendous support for our students and schools, while promoting a greater sense of community for the residents of Fredericktown.”
Most communities have these types of organizations.
“It pulls together all of the entities in a village or city to foster collaboration and enhance communication in supporting economic growth, business development, local non-profits and pooling donations to address the needs of our students, residents and community,” Fredericktown Supt. Gary Chapman said. “The district wants to be part of FCDF as it has and continues to be a tremendous support for our students and schools.”
As a liaison since January 2022, Falk goes to a monthly meeting to provide Fredericktown updates to the foundation. In return, he gives the board an update on what the foundation is doing for the village.
This form of communication gives the board a sense of economic advancement headed toward Fredericktown. For example, in July’s board meeting, Falk spoke about Fredericktown’s economic revitalization efforts, particularly downtown: a $92,000 grant is going toward exterior building improvements in downtown Fredericktown thanks to a county grant.
At the end of every Foundation meeting, members — including Falk and the board of education — provide a report about their business, President of FCDF Sarah Auburn said. She believes the Foundation meetings provide the business community, as well as individual members, valuable information on things happening within the schools.
“Since the schools are such a large part of our community, I do feel that it is a benefit for them to be there at the meetings and report information about the schools — where their shortages might fall in terms of if they are in need of teachers, if they’re having trouble, if they need funding for something,” Auburn said.
“So understanding what’s going on within the school and the school board being very helpful and very transparent about things that are going on within the school board, when they were looking for teachers at the beginning of the school year … providing that information allows the members of the community to go back and see if there are ways that we can assist.”
One example of positive communication between the boards came during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The former superintendent was providing FCDF information during COVID like what their protocols were, how they were protecting children, what they were doing, Auburn noted.
“So I do believe it’s very beneficial and helpful to have them involved in the organization … I believe those connections and networks are always important within a community,” Auburn continued. “And where the schools are so prevalent in the community I mean, the school is one of the most important aspects of our community.”
Another example of collaboration between Fredericktown’s board of education and FCDF is the 2-year-old “43019 Magazine,” which shares information about the foundation’s initiatives to distribute information to the community.
With the production of 43019 Magazine, Fredericktown Local School students are highlighted and news from the district is mentioned, Fredericktown Board of Education President Paul Napier said.
Napier said he welcomes and encourages anyone from the community to connect with school board members about community initiatives,” Napier said. “Joining the FCDF is not a requirement within the purview of the school board, but “we are happy to have a representative from the board attend meetings.
“Every board member is appointed to a variety of committees.”
For example, within the Fredericktown school board, members give reports of statewide and national legislation related to schools, the Knox County Career Center, the business advisory council and policy.
Napier believes having a liaison specifically within the village is a positive.
“It’s good to have representation but also have an idea of what’s coming possibly,” Napier said. “What’s the village thinking, that type of thing.”
Having a finger on the pulse can be an advantage for both entities, he added.
And Auburn sees young people that are attending Fredericktown as future leaders.
“And we want to show them what their local community has,” she said.