The Owatonna Middle School Commons was a busy place on Monday evening, where Superintendent Jeff Elstad led the first of the listening sessions planned to reflect, listen, and learn why the building bond referendum did not pass. The agenda was pretty short and the goals included listening to all voices and gathering information for the next steps.

All of the attendees were given a chance to write down concerns about the high school, on post-it notes, and those were put together into different categories. From there, categories were put at different tables, where there was a facilitator to take notes and ask questions if needed, while people walked around the tables and participated in the larger group discussions.

The main goal was to get information from the community with these topics:

  • What would it look like/Building plans
  • Building amenities
  • Proposed Location
  • Communication with community
  • Security and maintenance
  • Business partnerships
  • Taxes and Cost
  • Existing Building
  • Grad and Career Pathways

People were free to move about and discuss with any and all topics that interested them. Some of the topics had more people than others, and all were discussed. The discussions were civil and heartfelt. This was not a session to get answers, but, to share the questions that those in the School District in order to get more information that people wanted.

Superintendent Elstad did say that all of the notes that were taken yesterday would be compiled in some form and made available on the district's website so that all would have access to it if they wanted, or were not able to attend this session. Elstad also said, "I love this community even more tonight," and "I am very proud to be your superintendent." "As adults, we need to demonstrate and lead the example of civil discourse without negativity or shame."

The next session is being tentatively planned for Tuesday, June, 25th, at 6 pm. The place is yet to be determined. There are plans for yet another session after the 4th of July week.