Community Engagement: Creating a Shared Vision

The importance of a strong relationship between a public school district and the community to which it belongs cannot be overstated.  The vision and values of how students are educated need to be clear and aligned.

“Future Search” is among the best-established and most effective methods for enabling people to create and implement an ambitious plan.  We have partnered with over thirty school districts using variations of a future search to engage communities in the identification of priorities that will shape the future of the district. By definition, a future search process provides a forum for diverse stakeholder groups to contribute jointly to a vision of the future, through discovery of their common ground, and to work together towards implementation.  The outcomes of these conversations will provide direction to your district’s strategic plan and help your board focus on what matters most to your community.

Over a period of approximately 12 hours, spread-out over three days, stakeholders from the community will participate in a series of conversations that will result in the identification of what your students will need to be successful in college, career and life.  One of the fundamental principles that contributes toward a successful gathering is ensuring that the “whole system” is in the room for this conversation This includes but not limited to parents, teachers, students, employers, elected officials, non-teaching staff, senior citizens, board of education, social services, clergy, administrators, and post-high school educators.

Other community engagement services we provide include the design and facilitation of citizen committees that make recommendations for changing school boundaries, long-range facility planning, and school closures.


The importance of a strong relationship between a public school district and the community to which it belongs cannot be overstated; especially in light of the bashing that public education has taken of late. In over 30 years as a public educator, I have never encountered a more impactful and transformative process for a school district to create and maintain a strong and positive relationship with its community as the Future Search process lead by Drew Howick of Howick Associates.

Drew helped the Luxemburg – Casco School District rekindle a relationship with our community that has been so well received that there is a palpable sense of optimism and enthusiasm by the community about the district moving in a positive direction. With over 125 community members in attendance, Drew and the Future Search process have engaged the L-C community in the development of a vision for the future of the district and the community that will transform both for the better for years to come.

On a more personal note, Drew’s expertise in working with a planning team of district and community members to customize the Future Search process for L-C and his expertise in facilitating the Future Search event made both the planning of the event and its execution a pleasurable and energizing experience as evidenced by the multitude of positive comments received by me and my school board.

In short, if a superintendent and school board want to transform the relationship their district has with its community in a positive and lasting manner, I cannot imagine a better way to do so than by the leadership of Drew Howick and the Future Search process.

Glenn Schlender
Superintendent, Luxemburg – Casco

The Deforest Area School District has been using Drew Howick’s services since 1999 when the district used Drew’s expertise to facilitate a conversation with the community using a future-searching process, we called “Framework For Our Future”. Drew guided the district through the process which engaged the community so well that now, having facilitated conversations around difficult topics with a representative group of community members has become the way we do business. Drew has trained staff in facilitation skills. He has not only worked with the district on the major future-searching event that is done every 10 years, but on the mid-point check-ins as we true the compass with community stakeholders. Twice the district has used his skills to form a community advisory committee that looked at the condition of our buildings, population projections, and possible facilities to be built or improved. We have had successful referenda both times which I attribute to the process put together by Drew and our administration to engage the community and to frame the issues in an understandable way. He facilitated meetings with the parents and community of a small, rural school that was facing closure. While no solution came out of these meetings, the process help honor the feelings and concerns of those affected. Drew is a quick study who grasps the core of an issue and then has a wealth of facilitation solutions to offer to find consensus around that issue. He has a remarkable skill of focusing a diverse group with many agendas and getting the group to find some common ground. Our district has been able to engage the community and move things forward due in great part to the facilitation skills we have internalized from our long association with Drew Howick.

Jan Berg
President, DeForest Area School District Board of Education

Drew Howick delivered for the Peshtigo Community. We asked Drew to help us create an event that would actively engage our community and build trust through its process. After the first night the feedback from participants included the words; exciting, engaging, thought-provoking, transparency, and I never knew. In the end, we were able to connect with our community and develop a shared vision of the future.

Patrick Rau
Superintendent, Peshtigo School District