The Mansfield community came together once again Saturday afternoon to discuss the town’s community resources in a Community Conversation event sponsored by the Mansfield Advocates for Children (MAC).
About 20 Mansfield parents attended Saturday's conversation at Town Hall, which focused on the availability of information about community resources, primarily its schools, for new residents – an issue that affects many of the academics who move to the area because of the .
Community conversations, according to Sandra Baxter, the Mansfield school readiness coordinator, are a forum where parents gather to brainstorm ways the community can help foster a healthy, successful and educational environment for its children.
Baxter said long-time residents often take for granted how difficult it can be for others to adjust to a new community with a new set of cultural guidelines.
"I spoke with one mother and about how her child came home from school with valentines from his friends on Valentine's Day. She wasn't familiar with the holiday, and was upset because her child had nothing to give to his friends," Baxter said.
After a presentation by Kevin Grunwald, Mansfield's director of human services, parents split up into groups – an English-speaking group and two others that hosted discussion in Chinese and Korean.
As parents compiled a list of places where information could be made accessible to the community – the bulletin boards at the library and community center were two suggestions.
Using online media like Facebook and other social networking sites was mentioned, as were more options that incorporated more traditional media platforms, like an appearance on a parent's show on channel 14.
Project Manager Nancy Polk, an employee of Community Mediation, Inc., said that the goal of the day's conversation was not just to compile lists of possible solutions, but to follow proposals up with action.
Polk said that the goal of community conversations like this one is to attract 100 parents to a single meeting.
But diversity outweighs quantity in importance, because having a range of viewpoints represented leads to more comprehensive solutions.
"Educators, seniors, parents, legislators – they all have different perspectives," Polk said. "They learn a lot from exchanging views."
Polk said that the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Foundation supplied MAC with a grant of $1,500 to host the conversations.
"These people are here because they are concerned about early childhood education," she said.
Polk praised MAC for their hard work. The turnout for Saturday's conversation was lower than , but Polk said that numbers do not reflect the group's overall dedication.
"Most parents, they just want to get it off their chest [when they show up for their first meeting]," Polk said. "But a small number will show up at a follow-up meeting and that's when they decide how to take this forward."
"No one wants [Saturday's] conversation to be the end," Polk said.