Surveys: School district better, but still needs improvement
Overall, Stevens Point Area Public School District is faring well, according to parent and staff surveys, but there are some areas in which the district would like to, and perhaps needs to, improve.
“It is very much how surveyors were feeling at that point in time so we do take these surveys seriously,” said Sarah O’Donnell, district director of communications.
O’Donnell reviewed survey results with the School Board Aug. 9, pointing to specific areas of positive feedback and some that need attention. Surveys were sent via email, and survey respondents were kept confidential.
The district even declined to provide specific comments in order to protect the respondents, instead O’Donnell identified common themes that came across in the comments, such as more communication between the board and parents/staff is needed and salaries and feeling valued for staff needs more attention.
About 1,029 surveys were returned from parents across the district representing all schools with the highest percentage, as expected, returned from Stevens Point Area Senior High School students. About 57 percent of those identified their children as being involved in a sport or other extracurricular activity.
Overwhelmingly, the respondents identified themselves as white with 87 percent falling into that category. Board member Trish Baker said the district should look at how to make those responses better reflect the student population’s ethnicity.
Parents indicated at every grade level satisfaction with the building principals and staff, with 90 percent feeling welcome and 98 percent at both elementary and secondary levels saying their child has a positive relationship with at least one adult.
“It is really important for that student to feel like they have that opportunity to go to someone should they need it,” O’Donnell said.
About 90 percent of parents said staff treat everyone with dignity and respect, and about 83 percent indicated their child(ren) knows where and how to get help if needed. Another 98 percent said – in all school buildings – that the buildings were clean and well-kept and about 90 percent of people said the district employs high-quality teachers.
Parents generally felt the district forms effective partnerships with businesses and community organizations, with 83 percent agreeing, and about 81 percent said they were satisfied with the communication that comes from the district.
Items for improvement come in areas in which the district is run effectively, with just 66 percent in agreement, and that the district has effective financial management, with 63 percent in agreement.
“I think we have an opportunity for communication here as we see this board continue to move forward,” O’Donnell said.
Overall, 80 percent of parents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the school district.
Staff surveys had similar questions in terms of how much in agreement respondents were to specific statements. There were 51 percent of staff responding, and that staff response was spread across the district, including from buildings and grounds, administration and technology services.
Classroom teachers represented 41 percent of the returned surveys, but education specialists, instructional aides, support staff including food, transportation and custodians, as well as administration also responded.
About 39 percent of the staff responding have one to five years in with the district, and another 46 percent have more than 10 years experience. As far as grades, 42 percent gave the district a “C,” 33 percent gave the district a “B,” and 18 percent gave the district a “D.”
In general, O’Donnell said, recurring strengths in comments included positive culture in the buildings, strong building leadership, staff feels valued among colleagues (in contrast, they do not feel valued at the district level) and there are lots of opportunities for students.
Opportunities for improvements, O’Donnell said, came in a compensation plan or lack thereof, equity in pay, overall morale where staff does not feel valued and poor communication between staff and the district where staff is not understanding why specific decisions are being made.
There were 35 percent who said Stevens Point was worse than neighboring districts, 7 percent who said much worse, and 15 percent said better.
Clearly, this is an area of concern, O’Donnell said.
“These are not where we want to see them,” she said “We want staff to see us as better or much better.”
While areas regarding student achievement generally were higher (above 60 percent), and the feeling that their work directly contributes to the success of the district and is satisfying scored high (94 and 86 percent respectively), areas surrounding communication, recognition and compensation scored low.
Of those responding, 39 percent said they feel the district honestly communicates with them about important issues, 42 percent said they have a good understanding of the plans and goals for the district, 56 percent said board policies and procedures that affect them and their work are available and clearly communicated.
There also is a disconnect with feeling appreciated and valued. Just 60 percent said that they believe the community supports education, yet in the parent surveys about 90 percent would recommend their child’s school to a friend and more than 90 percent said they were proud of the school.
“I see a giant chasm here,” Baker said. “Clearly those two don’t fit together. I think there’s really some opportunity here.”
To see the survey results in their entirety, visit www.pointschools.net/education/components/docmgr/default.php?sectiondetailid=807&fileitem=32936&catfilter=4339 and scroll down to the 8-8-2016 packet and download it.