District to dial up residents for their opinions

ThisWeek News – February 16, 2011

The New Albany-Plain Local School District is conducting a phone survey to gauge the community’s perception of its performance.

“Conducting a community survey has been an interest of the (school) board for some time,” said communications director Jeff Warner. “With the development of a new strategic plan and the hiring of a new superintendent, the timing is perfect.”

Warner said the survey would start Feb. 17 and will involve asking a random sample of community members about their opinions on the strategic plan and how the district is performing in general. Other questions will involve such topics as academic performance, fiscal responsibility and diversity training.

“This will provide us with a strong baseline of data, not only on our current performance but on their priorities for improvement, as well as their vision for the future,” said Superintendent April Domine. “This is critical data for planning priorities and strategic planning and it will guide us on how to move forward with the strategic plan.”

The district’s strategic plan was developed last year with input from more than 130 local people, including a 38-member planning committee and 10 action teams that developed strategies for reaching the planning group’s objectives.

Warner said the district is working with Columbus-based public-opinion research firm Saperstein Associates to complete the survey. Questions were developed by the board and Domine and the district’s leadership team added their input before the final questions were determined.

The district is paying Saperstein Associates $15,000 for the project, which includes pre-testing and survey development, completing the survey, analyzing the data received and putting the data into a final report, Warner said. The survey is expected to take about 13 minutes.

Warner said the survey questions may be used later to gauge the district’s performance and how the community’s perception of the district changes.

“We need to understand what the perceptions of the community are and learn what their vision of the future and of the schools is, to lead us to prioritize our work in the future,” Domine said.

Domine said using an outside source that specializes in surveys was important.

“This is a highly critical first step in truly knowing what the current community perception is in our strengths, our quality, our areas for improvement and what is essential to prioritize for the future,” Domine said.

At the end of her first 90 days as superintendent, Domine said, she hopes to use the data, combined with more information she’s been collecting from students, staff and residents, to gain an accurate picture of the district’s status. She already has been meeting with student councils and members of the community and she plans to hold staff focus groups in the near future.

“We will be compiling the data from these surveys, along with data that we will be obtaining from our students and staff, to help us to set priorities and identify next steps as we work to implement our strategic plan,” she said. “Once we have completed our analysis of the data, we will report the findings to the board of education and post the information on our website so that you can be kept informed of our work and track our progress.”