Community assessment kindles Lockwood’s can-do spirit

Originally published in the 12/8/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

LOCKWOOD — A lot has been happening in Lockwood the past few years.

Who and what is behind all these community-transforming events?

A “community assessment,” held in 2013, brought about communication and motivation that helped advance a host of projects in Lockwood that had long been on the community’s wish list.

Such was the conclusion of many Lockwood leaders, last Wednesday, who participated in a review of the community assessment, conducted by the Resource Team coordinated by the Montana Economic Developers Association (MEDA).

Headed by Gloria Higgins and Gloria O’Rourke of MEDA, the gathering at the Lockwood Fire Department was essentially a community-wide conversation of the many Lockwood citizens who have been involved in Lockwood’s most recent achievements. Funded by a special grant, MEDA is returning to the numerous communities in which they have conducted assessments to determine what has been achieved and if there are ways to improve upon how they conduct the assessments, said Higgins.

The Resource Team is sponsored by the Montana Department of Commerce in cooperation with Big Sky Economic Development.

Lockwood has demonstrated, by far, the most successes of all the communities in which they have done assessments, said O’Rourke.

Participants were asked to talk about what they perceive as their successes and to explain what they perceive to be the reasons for them.

The community assessment helped to draw attention from the broader community to the issues faced by Lockwood, was the essence of many comments. The event also encouraged more involvement of more citizens, most especially by younger people.

It gave momentum to “ideas that had been germinating in Lockwood for years,” said Sue Vinton, Lockwood’s state legislator. It especially motivated young people, said Vinton, recalling what seemed to be a “mini-reunion” of parents who attended the assessment meeting and who later encountered each other at a school event. The impact, of the opportunity for Lockwood people to see “their shared values, has been significant.”

Lockwood School Superintendent Tobin Novasio pointed to the unfolding effort to advance a long-sought goal of having its own high school. The 2013 community assessment was the first “hard evidence” the school board had as to the level of community support for the idea, said Novasio. Prior to that, he said, the school board had said that they would not pursue the effort without evidence of “push” from the community.

In addition, he added, the most recent announcement of a partnership between Lockwood School and St. Vincent HealthCare to establish a clinic on the school campus can also be attributed, in part, to the momentum generated by the community assessment.

The high school campaign included broad community support in a lobbying effort to change state law so that the community could just consider the proposal of a new high school. This year, the bill, which lifted a state moratorium on creating new school districts, finally passed, after having failed in several earlier legislatures. That was quickly followed by a very successful vote in November by the community to establish boundaries for a k-12 district and to pursue development of a design and estimate costs. The school district hopes to be able to put a bond issue on the ballot this coming spring.

Conrad Stroebe, who has long advocated for a Lockwood high school, pointed out that the measure passed with 69.3 percent of the voters supporting it, which is almost exactly the same margin of support for a high school reflected in a 2006 survey of Lockwood.

“The community has always been behind it,” contended Stroebe.

O’Rourke called the vote “myth busting,” considering the broadly held belief, outside the community, that there was little support in Lockwood for a high school.

It was noted that the committee that led the door-to-door campaign in the recent election, was first formed during the community assessment in 2013. Led by Chad Hanson, it geared up once the enabling legislation was passed, drawing the active participation of 20-30 Lockwood citizens, who helped canvass 67 different neighborhoods to support the proposal.

Another committee that also saw its impetus from the community assessment is the very successful Lockwood Pedestrian Safety … Read 1/2 half of story in print or by subscribing online here. 


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