Surveys At Last, Surveys At Last....

September 3, 2012

At long, long last it appears that community surveys are finally returning to QCSD. Despite repeated roadblocks thrown up by the administration, and some board members who would still like us all to bury our heads in the sand regarding the depth of public dissatisfaction, the overwhelming majority of directors have successfully fought to hire professional education pollster K-12 Insight to survey teachers, students, alumni, and the community at large.

There will be a series of at least 14 on-line surveys during the upcoming school year, beginning perhaps as early as the first month. And the most important aspect is that the responses will be anonymous. There are dangers, of course. On-line pollsters do have software that allows only one vote per IP address, though it isn't at all difficult to imagine certain current and former directors logging on multiple times with various family computers, tablets, and smart phones, and encouraging friends to do the same. But that possibility is outweighed by the guarantee that people with complaints and concerns can finally speak their minds freely, without fear of reprisal.

For years I have heard from parents who were upset about various aspects of the schools, but would not go public, or even speak privately to the administration, for fear of retribution against their kids. And, at the same time, teachers have confided in board members regarding problems they have witnessed, and questionable things they have been required to do (or not do), which they will not address with the administration out of those same fears. Number One among those complaints is our teach-to-the-test Standard Based curriculum, which, teachers say, so severely restricts the education plans that they fear for their students' futures.

Director Mitch Anderson, the former president of the QCSD teachers' union, knows better than anyone of the dissatisfaction among teachers and students. His initial action after being elected to the board last year was to push for the first district-wide surveys since the disastrous 2006 questionnaires, which came back with results so critical of the administration and curriculum that they were never released to the community. His efforts have been opposed (not surprisingly) by Superintendent Lisa Andrejko, and sycophantic board members Bob Smith and Kelly Van Valkenburgh.

But our families have won round one. Anderson explained "We had serious concerns about the need for anonymity, and to have our own questions used. K-12 Insight's answers worked for me, and others I believe. I like the comprehensive nature of the various proposed surveys. The resistance was mostly from administration on our Curriculum/Education committee (including Andrejko). They only wanted to do surveys for the next Comprehensive Plan."

The cost, which, along with the actual contract, still must be formally approved by the board, is not to exceed $40,000. But the surveys have the potential to be the best money spent around here. All stakeholders will finally be heard, without timers, intimidation, censorship, or fear of reprisals. The administration will no longer be able to claim to speak for the community - we will speak for ourselves.

The decision to use K-12 Insight took some real consideration. Anderson, and other directors, initially had concerns, because K-12 was recommended by Andrejko, and so many of the testimonials on their website come from administrators. It appeared that there might be a cozy relationship. But Anderson was impressed with the presentation given to the QCSD Curriculum/Education committee. It was done by the owner of the company, and more comprehensive than the separate presentation given to the entire board.

And Anderson sees great future value to the surveys, which can, potentially, reach everyone involved with the schools. "If K-12 Insight can get the community, staff and student input as they suggest they can, then I think it will be money well spent. And hopefully it will begin real two-way communication between the district and the community. Many people have felt put off by the board and administration, and maybe this can begin to erode that sense. It may well be that some of the work needed for the Comprehensive Plan can also be accomplished."

And, most importantly, Anderson was adamant that there would be no further interference from the administration, and no repeat of 2006: "The results are to be the board's, and it is our intent to go public with them once any personal type info is removed." Free at last, free at last....

Interestingly, President Smith made it very clear that the board is still divided on allowing that community input. He stated "There was distrust on both sides of how this is going to be done, how it's going to come out." Both sides. He was referring to the board's 7-2 vote to do the surveys. Opposed: Smith and Van Valkenburg. It is no surprise that VV is allergic to surveys....she was one of the targets of the public's anger in 2006, and is in great danger of losing her seat next year following the departure of buddies Linda Martin, Nancy Tirjan, and Kathy Mosley. Like them, she would become another defeated devotee of Andrejko's see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil agenda.

But please tell us, Mr Smith, what are we to make of a school board president who publicly fights for seven months to prevent the community from having input???