Schools answer survey

Schools will use the internet, e-mail, surveys, newsletters and phone calls to tackle the communication challenges parents say the entire school district faces.

And parents themselves will make sure it gets done.

The School Accountability Committee has set communication as one of it's priorities based on the results of a parent survey issued this spring.

Districtwide communication was ranked 3.4 on a scale of 5 -- certainly a satisfactory score, Superintendent Pete Bergmann said, but there's always room for improvement.

Most of the 892 parents who responded said communication was OK, but their comments suggested improvement was needed.

E-mailed announcements are popular, as are increased-frequency parent teacher conferences. Parents would like to see more positive communication -- teachers calling regularly, not just when there's a problem.

At Craig Intermediate School teachers are encouraged to contact every parent once a trimester.

"We're increasing our positive responses based on the comments people had," Principal Don Davidson said. "(Communication) that's my most important goal."

It was last year, too, and this year's comments reflected the improvement. Communication increased from 2.9 to 3.2 on the CIS survey results.

CIS has an automated call system, a growing e-mail database and other communication avenues it's working to enhance and take better advantage of.

At 51 percent, CIS had the highest survey response overall, Davidson is pleased with the responses.

"You'll always have a few people who, no matter what you do, you're not going to please them," he said. "There were some axes to grind."

A communication tool that will be implemented districtwide will be the establishment of a network of "key communicators" -- a cross section of very involved community members. The district has already identified at least 30 people who will be invited to quarterly luncheons to discuss educational issues and "hot topics," such as fund-raisers, school lunches, pop machines, financial issues and discipline.

The only item to score below a 3 at Craig Intermediate School was school lunches, which was an item ranked low at most schools.

"We understand parents' concerns, that's why we send home menus in advance, then they can pack a lunch," East Elementary School Principal Diana Cook said.

East Elementary responses were not only high across the board, but consistent with last year's.

Cook will be working on a plan to have newsletters issued by teachers at each grade level.

Last year Craig Middle School parents were concerned that school officials didn't have high enough expectations for student behavior. In response, the school changed how it communicated its standards of conduct.

"We called a lot more attention this year to what we're doing," Craig Middle School Principal Steve Wiersma said. "It's nice to see (the number of positive responses to that question) increasing, but you don't always know what's influencing the numbers."

Wiersma has resigned as the school's principal, but will recommend that his replacement and the school staff look at their homework practices and discuss ways to be more consistent.

"It is an issue and it always has been an issue," he said.

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