Survey seeks parents' ideas

Respondents asked to evaluate aspects of school system

Carroll County

March 25, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

For the first time in Carroll County history, the superintendent of schools is sending home a parent opinion survey that asks families to rate the school system's performance in 50 categories and rank 11 future priorities.

Interim schools chief Charles I. Ecker and the county's principals will use the responses to the questionnaire in setting future budgets. The Board of Education also will use the data when the panel meets next month to set its goals at a work session on strategic planning.

"It's an opportunity to get some feedback from the community on how we're doing," Ecker said.

"We'll look at that and see what we can do to become better. If we get a number of adverse comments about one particular area, we certainly will look at it to see how we can change it."

The two-page survey will be sent home April 2 with the county's 27,500 students and is due back April 12. Noting budget constraints, Ecker decided to use students as couriers to avoid the $9,300 cost of a mass mailing.

The idea for a community survey came from a parent who attended one of Ecker's town meetings at Linton Springs Elementary in November. When Ecker spoke with the woman after the meeting, she gave him a copy of a questionnaire used by the Worcester County school system.

Carroll officials modified that survey, Ecker said. "We're hoping parents will fill one out for each of their children because they may be in different schools, and they may have different answers for different schools."

The questionnaire asks parents to rate their children's school - from excellent to unsatisfactory - in instructional programs and services; support services; school buildings and grounds; and parent involvement and communications.

Specific categories include the quality of academic programs, the availability of textbooks, the lunch program, and the cleanliness of schools, parking areas, driveways and sidewalks.

The survey also asks parents to prioritize various needs, from reducing class size and providing equity between school facilities to replacing worn furniture and providing full-day kindergarten.

Respondents also may make additional comments.

School system spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said this is the first time the system has used such a survey.

School board member Thomas G. Hiltz said the results will help as he and his colleagues craft a vision statement and set goals for the school system.

"Any time you get insight and feedback from the community is helpful in reflecting what the community's interests are and what our priorities should be," he said.

"That type of input is most valuable, I think, if we get as many parents and community members to respond to the questionnaire as possible.

"For us, it would be important to hear from people who have some serious concerns and, likewise, to hear from people who think we're doing good things so we have a balance and can figure out the areas we need to focus on."

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