Online survey finds academic achievement should be Baldwin school district’s top priority
Respondents to an online survey clearly favored academics as the Baldwin school board’s top priority as it updates the district’s strategic plan.
Baldwin Superintendent Paul Dorathy shared the results of the survey with board members at their Monday meeting. The superintendent said 407 district parents, students, staffers and community members completed the survey from Oct. 29 to Nov. 6.
The board agreed last month to post the online survey to help with its crafting of an update of the district’s strategic plan, which was last updated three years ago. The survey asked district high school students, staffers, parents and community members to rank the six most important district priorities from a list of 12 subjects. The subjects were academic achievement and assessment, athletics and activities, career readiness, college readiness, communication and community outreach, facilities’ sufficiency, fiscal responsibility, maintenance and upkeep of facilities and grounds, safety and security, staff recruitment and retention, technology, and transportation.
The largest number of respondents were parents with 243 completing the survey. An additional 25 were both parents and staff members. Forty-seven respondents were staff members, and 40 were high school students. Fifty-two community members completed the survey.
The board will considers survey results as its considers the update again at its Dec. 21 meeting.
Dorathy said he had hoped that 500 individuals would respond to the survey, but doubted an additional 93 responses would have changed the results. Trends that developed early remained consistent as additional results came in, he said.
The clear consensus was that the district’s No. 1 priority should be academics. College and career readiness, which Board President Nick Harris said he viewed as part of academics, were rated second and fourth, respectively, while safety was rated third.
To score the survey, points were awarded to each subject respondents listed among their top six priorities, Dorathy said. Six points were awarded a first-place priority mention, five for a second-place listing and so forth to one point for a sixth-place listing,
With that scoring, academics was first with 1,750 points. It was the top selection of all subgroups responding to the survey.
College preparation and career readiness also were strong across the board, but some priorities did attract more favor among certain groups, Dorathy noted. For example, safety scored second on the parent priority list, activities was sixth among student priorities and staff recruitment and retention earned its highest ranking of fourth among staff members.
In comments on the survey results, board member Kelley Bethell-Smith said she was surprised safety was ranked so highly among groups in relatively peaceful Baldwin City. Other board members noted technology, which the board has done so much to update, wasn’t ranked higher. Board member Ivan Huntoon said that could be a reflection of the board’s efforts to update the district’s technology.
Harris contrasted the relatively low ranking of activities, which had an eighth-place overall ranking, with turnout at board meetings when different district activities were discussed. Such discussions always draw parents, and they and the community at large support sports, plays and other district activities during the year, he said.
The ranking of activities could be a reflection of placing them in context with other important priorities, Harris said. The survey asked parents to do what the board was regularly required to do, which was make hard priority decisions, he said.
Harris asked board members to send their “talking points” on the survey to board clerk Corey Countryman before its Dec. 21 meeting. Those will serve as a starting point to the board’s discussion of the survey and its selection of the top priorities to be targeted for improvements in the strategic plan update.
Dorathy said survey results would be posted on the district Web site, usd348.com.
In other business, the board:
• Approved the low bid of $20,242 from Cates Commercial Services to replace the air conditioning unit for the high school weight room.
• Approved a policy on request for out-of-district transfers, which could void the enrollment of students if the parents or guardians listed a false address during online enrollment. The policy also would continue the practice of reviewing the status of out-of-district students requesting transfer into the district after Sept. 20, which was the official date for enrollment counts for state funding under the old school funding system. The district cannot accept students expelled or suspended from other districts and has the right to reject transfer requests for students experiencing difficulties elsewhere.
• Agreed a potential buyer of the house on the Ruhlen property would only be required to pay $100 for the house and its removal, leaving the district with a $3,350 bill to remove its concrete basement and fill in the hole. the arrangement would save the district the about $4,000 cost of tearing down the house.