Transparency and communication have been the hallmark of school board member Dan Langshaw’s tenure. Once a month for the past 37 consecutive months he has invited the community to sit down and share their questions and concerns.
When asked where the idea for the sit downs came from he said, “It was an item that I campaigned on of increasing access for the public to the school board. When I knocked on doors during my campaign, people had no clue who was on the school board nor did they know what they did. So I wanted to make sure people knew who I was and what the rest of my colleagues are doing to represent them and educate their kids.”
Langshaw admits that it is a challenge as an elected official to represent residents of two communities with 35,000 plus residents.
“They are all my bosses,” he said. “My coffees are one-on-one talks with residents, which is what make residents more comfortable to speak up and have an opportunity to be heard. Listening to constituents has been lost by our elected representatives to a certain degree, especially on the national level, which is sad and unacceptable in this day and age we live in.”
Langshaw said his monthly meet and greets spurred the board of education to implement the SCENE meetings which are large town hall style meetings, held throughout the school year.
While the numbers fluctuate, Langshaw said he has had as many as 20 and as few as a single person show up for his monthly gatherings.
When it comes to what he has taken away from the meetings Langshaw said, “I’ve learned that residents enjoy having any opportunity to ask questions or voice their feedback in a more of a relaxed one-on-one setting over coffee. Also many parents are juggling band, carting their kids to practice for sports and other actives, or their work schedules make things difficult that they just can’t make it out to a school board meeting or SCENE meeting here in the district, so my coffees give them an extra opportunity to have that direct dialogue with a leader in the school district.”
Some of the most common things community members want to talk to Langshaw about include issues with bus stops, school facility needs, school security, reforming school funding on the state level and keeping the pressure on our state representatives and senator, continued fiscal responsibility, increasing technology in the classroom, special education needs, addressing specific problems that a parent has with their child’s education and seeking guidance for who can help them.
“Surprisingly, many people just want to say thank you for the great things that our school district does to help educate their children. And of course some just like to stop by and say hi and get a free small coffee from me. Which is fine too, I am a public servant.”
Not much has changed since he instituted the monthly meetings. The location has changed three times and it started out as a two- or three-hour secession that is now down to one or two hours. Langshaw has also switched up the times and days of the week to meet the needs of busy families.
“Although this is something I do individually I am very proud of the rest of my board and superintendent for the other direct ways of dialogue we have been able to do as a team to serve our district too,” said Langshaw. “It’s a variety that we have here in the North Royalton School District that many districts just don’t necessarily have.”
While Langshaw sees his 37th coffee with a school board member as a milestone, he has no plans to end the monthly program.
“My coffees just reaffirm the importance to be an effective leader or elected official you have to do three key things, which are listen, give constituents a voice, and make informed decisions to serve those who elected you. It is a time commitment, but it is absolutely worth it and I enjoy doing it too,” said Langshaw.
The next coffee with his constituents is scheduled for Feb. 2 at Mugshotz Coffee & Smoothies located at 6556 Royalton Rd., North Royalton from 9 to 10 a.m. For information on future coffees check out Langshaw’s Web site at www.danlangshaw.com, e-mail him at email@example.com or call 440-596-0078.