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July 13, 2011 - Clarkston Community Schools earned high marks in its latest survey.

In the telephone survey of 403 residents, taken in February, 20.9 percent said staff and teacher quality were "particularly good." Another 10.4 percent said curriculum and program quality came to mind when asked.

Also, 86.1 percent said teachers are well qualified and 77.6 percent said teachers are enthusiastic about helping students learn. Both are higher than in 2006, the last time the survey was given. Eighty-one percent felt the school district has high academic standards for students.

The district's single biggest problem for respondents was the budget, with 16.9 percent, followed by lack of state funding, with 14 percent.

If respondents were able to improve the district in one way, 4.2 percent said they would strengthen academics while 3.2 percent would improve communication.

Most respondents said they were informed about CCS, with 48.2 percent saying they were pretty well informed, 33.9 percent saying they were somewhat informed, and 17.8 percent, not informed.

The four major sources respondents received their information were from newletters with 13.7 percent, The Clarkston News and e-Blasts, both 11.9 percent, and friends/neighbors, 11.4 percent.

Survey results were averaged together to obtain a general picture of what residents think about the district. The results were also examined according to parents, respondents with school-aged children, and non-parents, respondents without school-aged children. Similar surveys were given in 2006, 2001, 1987 and 1983.

"Volunteers were recruited to make random phone calls to CCS residents. Each volunteer was trained to follow strict guidelines," said Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock.

He explained phone numbers were provided by a third-party company. From the list volunteers had access to 4,000 numbers and a total of 403 surveys were conducted.

Dawn Schaller, Independence Township resident, asked if the district paid for the list.

"My husband was one of the volunteers," Schaller said. "Volunteers were told someone was paid to come up with the list. A large percentage of numbers were for Brandon School district, some a lot in the same subdivision."

The survey was filled with leading questions, Schaller said.

"The survey and questions leaned towards what the district wanted to say," she said. "I don't think the survey should be used to justify anything."

The surveys were sent to Oakland Schools for tabulation. The data was sent back and Linda Zara, communications and marketing coordinator, analyzed the data and created graphs, an executive summary, and a power point presentation, Rock said.

"The survey sought opinions about the district's strengths and weaknesses, sources of school information, the curriculum, school financing and more," Zara said.

Respondents agreed the district offers a high quality education, with 81.4 percent percent believing the district has high academic standards for students. Seventy-nine percent also said the district offers a well disciplined learning environment where students know what is expected of them.

Respondents were given the opportunity to grade the district, 45.5 percent of parents gave the district an "A" while 43.9 percent of parents gave the district a "B."

While 52.2 percent of respondents with no school-aged children in the district gave a "B" grade and 30 percent believed the district deserved an "A."

District residents rated their schools 51 percentage points higher than the national A and B rating public schools received in the latest survey conducted by the 42nd Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

After giving their grade the respondents were asked why they felt the district should be given the particular grade.

Forty-eight respondents chose the option of other instead of the other 10 options including: don't listen, financial problems/lack of funds, poor academic program, staff apathy, administration, board of education, junior high program, high school program, space issues/overcrowding and CSMTech program.

"We really didn't capture why they wanted to give us that grade," said Joan Patterson, board trustee. "My concern is it seems to be very valuable information."

Zara added volunteers conducting the surveys were instructed to write down answers not included amongst the options.

"If they didn't write it down, no information was provided," she said.

Patterson asked if there was a way they could see the surveys because it was valuable information to have. Zara explained the district has them in a box available to look at.

Other questions for which respondents chose "other" regarded single problem facing Clarkston Community Schools and anything particularly good about Clarkston Community Schools.

Most respondents support leadership of the district, with 63.3 percent believe the district is efficiently run and 48.4 percent agreeing the board has a strong leadership. Most respondents also agreed school administrators are interested in opinions of residents, with 68.9 percent agreeing and 16.7 percent disagreeing.

Patterson asked if any additional information was given for the questions asking if respondents agreed, disagreed, or didn't know.

"Maybe in the future find a way to capture it so we know what we are missing," she added. "It is an excellent way to find out information and capture soemthing we are missing."

The next steps include reviewing the results and comparing with long-term planning and goals, sharing with the staff and determining if follow-up surveys are needed with specific parent and student groups.

For a look at the complete survey, check www.clarkston.k12.mi.us.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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