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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • School survey would ask about programs, more taxes

  • Residents of the Rolla School District—or at least some of them—will be asked in a telephone survey what they think about the performance of the local schools.
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  • Residents of the Rolla School District—or at least some of them—will be asked in a telephone survey what they think about the performance of the local schools.
    They'll also be asked whether they would be willing to vote for a property tax increase to pay for some key improvements, especially an Early Childhood Center.
    Meeting in regular session Thursday night, the Rolla Board of Education voted unanimously to "move forward" with a survey to be conducted by Patron Insight, a Stillwell, Kansas, company that works with school districts to discern taxpayers' attitudes.
    The school board is following a similar path to that being followed by the Rolla City Council, which on Feb. 4 discussed an upcoming survey of city residents' attitudes with particular regard paid to potential voters' willingness to pay a permanent sales tax to fund The Centre.
    At the meeting Thursday, school board members reviewed a draft questionnaire submitted by Patron Insight. According to a cover letter from Ken DeSieghardt, of Patron Insight, the questions will be asked in telephone calls to patrons.
    "This will take no more than 15 minutes for anyone but the chattiest of respondents!" DeSieghardt said of the phone survey.
    Board President Jeanne Cavender said it is important that administrators get the word to the public to expect the phone calls and to stay on the line with the surveyor because the board is interested in hearing what patrons tell them.
    "Don't hang up," Cavender said.
    Superintendent of Schools Dr. Aaron Zalis said some of the questions are the same as those on the 2009 survey conducted by Patron Insight. This will give the district a chance to compare and assess any changes.
    Zalis also noted that this survey includes some questions about patrons' attitudes and willingness to support construction or addition of an early childhood learning center to the district.
    There are 71 questions in the draft survey. Zalis told board members he would email copies of the final survey form to board members once Patron Insight completes the fine-tuning of the questions.
    The first five questions are about the geographical location of the home of the respondents.
    The next set of questions ask the respondent to grade the district with traditional grades of A,B,C,D and F on these areas:
    • Class sizes,
    • Value of tax dollars spent,
    • Balance of spending on academics, athletics and the arts,
    • Quality of teachers,
    • Quality of building principals,
    • Safety of students,
    • Quality of education,
    • Value of programming available at Rolla Technical Institute/Center,
    • District's performance in keeping current, including technology for students, and use of the latest approaches to teaching and learning,
    Page 2 of 4 - • Teaching of the "basics," math, science, English and social studies,
    • Preparation of students for college, vocational training or work,
    • Quality of the district's current early childhood education services,
    • Quality of school facilities,
    • Quality and maintenance of school facilities,
    • Performance of the superintendent,
    • Performance of the school board,
    • Parental involvement in school life and activities,
    • Efforts of the district to involve "citizens" in decision-making,
    • District's record on making and fulfilling promises, and
    • An overall grade for Rolla Public Schools.
    There are three open-ended questions in this section of the survey. One asks respondents to give additional information about their assessments of student safety. Another asks for the respondent to talk about the district's strengths. Another asks where the district could improve.
    The next section of the survey deals with facilities and programs, and the questions start getting longer and more complicated.
    A couple of sections of questions are prefaced with explanatory introductions. One of the sections asks respondents in a series of questions just how much additional tax money they would be willing to pay for an Early Childhood Center.
    Next, the surveyor will ask respondents whether they frequently, sometimes, rarely or never turn to these sources for information abut the Rolla Public Schools:
    • The Rolla Daily News
    • The Morning Mayor Community Show on KTTR Radio
    • The Rolla School Board, either in person, or when a member of the board is quoted in the news media
    • The Rolla School District superintendent, either in person or when he is quoted in the news media
    • School principals
    • Teachers
    • School support staff, such as bus drivers, school secretaries and nurses,
    • Parent Teacher Organization (also known as PTO)
    • Friends and neighbors
    • Community organizations like the Lions and Rotary clubs
    • Local day care providers
    • The Champions of Rolla Education group, also known as CORE
    • Rolla cable channel 16
    • Newsletters from schools in the Rolla district
    • Emails, texts and voicemails from individual schools or from the district office
    • Rolla School District website
    • Individual school websites
    • Outdoor marquees at the schools
    • Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter
    The final questions are about length of residence in the district, age, whether or not the respondent or household member is employed by the school district and whether or not the respondent's children or grandchildren attend public or private school or are homeschooled.
    Page 3 of 4 -  
    Key questions in survey focus on attitudes about Early Childhood Center

    Although the survey to be conducted by Patron Insight asks questions about local residents’ assessments of school programs, a major focus is on the possible construction of an Early Childhood Center, or a reconfiguring of buildings to include such a center, and how much residents are willing to pay in taxes to bring that about.
    Here is the set of relevant questions, along with the prefacing remarks the telephone surveyors will use, according to the draft list of questions reviewed by the school board Thursday night:
    As you may know, the district has a long-range plan that it regularly updates to make certain that its facilities and programs are keeping up with the changing needs of its students and their families. As the district reviews its plan, it would like to know how important you think the following ideas are.
    29. One of the ideas in that plan is the construction of an auditorium for Rolla High School, which currently does not have one. How important do you think this project is to students and their families, and to the Rolla community?
    30. One of the ideas in that plan is the updating of technology for use by students in the classroom and by district staff. How important do you think this project is to students and their families, and to the Rolla community?
    31. One of the ideas in that plan is for the district to offer a full-service Early Childhood Education program for students who are younger than kindergarten age. This would expand on the district’s current, more limited programs for students who are this age, by creating a full-service program that would have a variety of services and room to serve all families. How important do you think this project is to students and their families, and to the Rolla community?
    Each of these projects that we’ve just discussed may appear on a future bond issue. I’m now going to reread the list of projects. After I reach each one, please tell me if including it on a potential future bond issue would make you more likely to vote in favor of the bond issue, more likely to vote against, or would it make no difference in your voting decision?
    32. Construction of an auditorium at Rolla High School.
    33. Updating technology used by students in the classroom and district staff.
    34. The district offering a full-service Early Childhood Education program for children who are younger than kindergarten age.
    35. I have just a couple more questions about the full-service Early Childhood Education program idea. The district has two alternatives for how it might offer such a program. One would be to offer it in a stand-alone building that would be built just for that purpose. The other option would be for the district to renovate one of its current elementary schools to become the home of the Early Childhood Education program — and only the Early Childhood Program. The other two elementary schools would then become what are called graded centers, meaning that all students from across the district in certain elementary grades — such as first and second grade — would attend school in the same building, rather than different buildings, and then they would all move on to the next building together as they get older.
    Page 4 of 4 - As the district considers which option would be best for students, families and the Rolla community in general, which one do you prefer — the stand-alone facility or renovating one elementary school to become the Early Childhood Education Center and then changing the other elementary schools to graded centers?
    36. If a potential future bond issue included funds to build a stand-alone Early Childhood Center, would you be more likely to vote in favor of the bond issue, more likely to vote against it, or would it make no difference to you?
    37. What if the district chose the other option for Early Childhood Education instead? How would that impact your voting decision?
    38. If a potential future bond issue included funds to renovate a current elementary school to become the Early Childhood Center and then turn the other schools into graded centers, would you be more likely to vote in favor of the bond issue, more likely to vote against, or would it make no difference to you?
    39. What if the district chose the other option for Early Childhood Education instead? How would that impact your voting decision?
    40. If the district included an Early Childhood Education Program facility in a future bond issue — either a stand-alone facility or the renovation of an existing elementary school to become that facility, and then the conversion of the other two elementary schools into graded centers, would you be more likely to vote in favor of the bond issue, more likely to vote against it, or would it make no difference to you?
    41. What if the bond issue for these projects included projects that you thought were a good idea, and it resulted in a tax increase of $47.50 per year our about $4 a month for the owner of a $100,000 home in the district? Would you strongly favor, favor, oppose or strongly oppose the proposal?
    42. What if, instead, the bond issue resulted in a tax increase of about $38 per year, or a little more than $3 a month for the owner of a $100,000 home in the district? Would you strongly favor, favor, oppose or strongly oppose the proposal?
    43. What if, instead, the bond issue resulted in a tax increase of about $19 per year, or about $1.50 a month for the owner of a $100,000 home in the district? Would you strongly favor, favor, oppose or strongly oppose the proposal?
    44. Why do you believe you would oppose the bond issue?

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