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Citizen-led committees have been helpful to make various improvements or spark local projects

Citizen leadership has seemingly taken on a more and more prominent role in major community projects and decisions during the past few years.

Where past efforts on critical changes or significant additions to Crook County have fallen short, renewed efforts led by citizen committees have appeared to get projects over the hump. Consider that the school bond that helped fund Barnes Butte Elementary was promoted by a citizen-led political action committee. The new jail certainly benefited from economic times and a collaborative effort between city and county officials, but what seemed to push it over the top was work of a citizen group that heavily researched jails and what the community could afford and would support. The project broke ground this past August. And while the fate of a new pool is not yet known, this is the closest Prineville has come to moving forward on the project in about a decade.

In this era of citizen-led work to benefit public entities, we have seen enough success to suggest that it could work in other arenas. Might the school district be next?

Recently, school board members discussed the possibility of forming a committee to revamp the current social studies curriculum. The idea is still up in the air, and it appears school staff and board members are going to take a stab at evaluating the curriculum and perhaps making whatever changes are deemed necessary.

Maybe the work ends there with no citizen group ever forming, and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it is fair to wonder if the school district could benefit from some sort of citizen group committed to school curriculum — not just social studies, but all the core subjects, like math, reading, science and others.

This is not in any way suggesting that the school district staff is not making the right decisions, but much like the jail committee and pool committee, it could add another group of eyes and minds to the overall effort of providing local kids the best education possible.

This, of course, would need to be crafted carefully. Assuredly, there are state and federal mandates to follow and as curriculum director Stacy Smith points out, changes in curriculum come with a potentially high price tag. And there is always the risk of people promoting a particular agenda that doesn't represent the majority of the community or align with programs proven to benefit students.

However, if a citizen group can come alongside a public entity, learn what can be done and what can't, and work with the people on the ground, perhaps those issues can be avoided and the citizen group can provide oversight and insight from another viewpoint. Don't forget that the jail committee had a lot to learn about law enforcement, and spent much of their time meeting with its local leaders before developing a jail recommendation.

Maybe this would only result in a tweak to social studies here or an adjustment to math there. Perhaps it would lead to some more substantial changes. But if there is one thing people in this community have demonstrated is that they have the desire, energy and commitment to step in where help is needed.

Social studies curriculum committee? Could be interesting, but taking it a step further might be something worth exploring.

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