By MAGGIE SCHUETTE-VOSS
The recommendations are in as to how to create a shared vision for Lester Prairie community planning.
In an effort to find how the school, city, and others can work together to plan for Lester Prairie's future, the school district hired educational consultant Donald Christensen.
His objective was to "create a shared vision for strategic planning among school and community leaders and stakeholders."
To do so, between Dec. 15 and Jan. 21, Christensen interviewed 32 people and one focus group of seven high school students.
Two community meetings were held in which a total of 39 people participated. Christensen also used their comments in his final report.
From the interviews and meetings, Christensen concluded there is a positive view of Lester Prairie and its future.
The interviewees, Christensen wrote, most frequently mentioned the school as a community asset.
Other assets were the city's location to the metro area, Hutchinson, and St. Cloud. Small town values, lifestyle, churches, and active service organizations were also cited.
Christensen also inquired what the interviewees saw as barriers to the city's growth and vitality.
They noted declining business activity, static city boundaries, unattractive main street, and limited potential for new housing.
He wrote many people felt they are waiting for strong leadership to "step forward and unleash (the city's) potential."
Christensen noted the leadership barrier did not initially emerge during the interviews or the community meetings. Many of the ideas are the same as those in a document called Lester Prairie Priorities, dated March 30, 1990.
"The priorities stated in 1990 closely parallel the barriers that emerged in the 1998 interviews and community meetings. Prominent among the stated priorities in 1990 were 'a plan of action for economic and business development, residential development, promotion of the community, and incentives for business growth,'" Christensen said.
Because those priorities had not changed in eight years, Christensen said this supported the perception that leadership is a key - and missing - factor to realizing a vision of vitality and growth in the Lester Prairie community.
"People look for visible signs of an aggressive marketing and promotion of the community. Incentives to attract new business and business activity are either non-existent or unknown to people. The absences of professional development, planning or administration personnel employed by the city government is viewed a barrier to the city's growth and development," Christensen said.
A wide range of suggestions for strengthening the school and its place in community growth emerged during the interviews and community meetings.
Frequently mentioned suggestions included moving toward a student focused, hands-on delivery of instruction. A community-based school with students substantively and visibly involved in community and business activities was a prominent suggestion.
Christensen's recommendations were: