January 11, 2018
Committee of the Whole Meeting - January 11
Results Not Representative of Our Community
The School Board met on Thursday, January 11th to discuss the Listening Post results regarding the need for new school facilities. The Listening Posts were dialogue sessions conducted to gather input from various stakeholders. Listening Post sessions were conducted during the 2017 fall semester by Foster Jacobs & Johnson, Inc (FJJ). Conducting the listening posts was part of FJJ's $63,400 contract with the school administration which also covers FJJ’s activities to support the Facilities Input Group (FIG).
The Listening Posts consisted of 23 sessions which included 500 participants with the following make up:
70% Teachers & Administrators
27% Parents including some of the community
The two primary issues of concern identified by the
school board on the chart here were the small percent of
participation from parents and the community and the lack of
district outreach to the community. Even with low community
wide input (27% of the participants), it is interesting to note
that 34% of the participants did not strongly support the
building of a new school.
The voice and perspective of the employees of the school district is valuable (70% of the participants) but it does not necessarily represent people who will personally carry the financial burden of their wishes. If someone asked you if you would like to have an office, new computer, company vehicle, etc. that would help you do your job better, what would be the likelihood that you would turn it down in consideration of the financial burden on your company?
The school district reached out for participants with an invitation on the Avon Grove school website and with school district e-mails. Advertisements in the newspapers were not used. Outreach to the general community was minimal.
Teachers were well represented (nearly all participated) because the sessions were during a time designated for professional development. Community members were almost entirely composed of parents already highly engaged with the school web site and supportive of the FIG recommendation. They are the only group that would have been exclusively made up of Avon Grove school district taxpayers,
Two types of Listening Post sessions were held. Teachers were asked questions designed to assess the educational adequacy of the school buildings and to prioritize the associated needs. Administrators, support staff, students, parents and community members were asked questions designed to elicit broad feedback on the facilities initiative, identify current facilities challenges and to prioritize the needs identified. Affordability of the facilities was not discussed.
The Listening Posts appeared to be designed to create a wish list of issues and desires without any restraint or consideration of the cost and practicality of changes needed to address the issues with the current facilities.
The Listening Post results provides useful information but it needs to be understood that this is not the voice of the community but rather the voice of employees of the school system and parents who are highly engaged in the school system who are not significantly concerned about the financial impact of what they desire.
Due to the low tax paying community participation in the Listening Posts, Avon Grove Taxpayers does not view the results from the study as representative of our community. It is critical that community members attend upcoming school board meetings and/or send letters via e-mail to the school board and administration to make their position on building new school facilities known.
Watch a video of the full meeting here.
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