By Derek Okubo

After the All-America City Award conference in June 2010 in Kansas City, Southwest Airlines (the official airline of the All-America City Award) offered finalist communities a free day of technical assistance from the National Civic League’s Community Services program. Some of the finalists jumped at the opportunity.

Dublin, California used its day last week to bring the city staff and city council members to a forum with the local school district to explore ways in which they could work more effectively together. In light of the tough economic times facing local government and school districts, such a discussion made sense.

The city and the district realized that they could not continue to work separately and expect to thrive. For instance, putting forth ballot initiatives at the same time would likely mean defeat for both given the public’s angst toward higher taxes in today’s economy. In addition, they needed each other: the city’s future economic development opportunities depended on strong schools. The schools needed a safe and healthy community, a strong infrastructure, and effective governance in order to thrive.

Such a convening had only been done twice before: in 1985 and in 1998. While hopeful, both sides were a little apprehensive and uncertain about how the discussion would go. The apprehension turned out to be unfounded. Dubliners showed their All-America City spirit by focusing their energy on the possibilities rather than the potential pitfalls.

The discussion revealed the past, present and future that the city and school district both shared. The discussion identified four key areas where the city and district could collaborate: 1) a planning process to further develop the shared opportunities they would focus on; 2) shared revenue measures; 3) shared facilities; and 4) joint community outreach and engagement.

The energy and enthusiasm at the conclusion of the meeting were infectious, and a preliminary process was established and subsequent meetings were scheduled. Thanks to the support of Southwest Airlines, the city of Dublin was able to use NCL’s services to have a safe, productive meeting on one of the most important issues the community has faced.