Archive for Thursday, November 8, 2007

District to survey growth opinions

November 8, 2007

Patrons will get to have a say in the next step for De Soto USD 232.

Monday, the De Soto Board of Education approved 6-1 hiring Ken DeSieghardt from DeSieghardt Strategic Communications to conduct a scientific survey in the district. Board member Randy Johnson dissented.

DeSieghardt will develop survey questions to pull information from voters that will inform the board on how to best manage the growth of the district. The information would help the board develop a future bond issue. The cost of the survey is not to exceed $13,800.

Survey questions will be developed in the coming weeks, but DeSieghardt said he would wait to start contacting patrons until after the holidays.

To get a reliable sample, DeSieghardt said he would contact 400 patrons who would adequately represent the district. For example, he would contact more people in areas with more residents even if he already had a large enough sample, he said. Only heads of households who are registered voters and who know they live in the district will be surveyed by phone. Calls will be from 7 to 9 p.m. during the week and from noon to 6 p.m. on the weekend.

DeSieghardt's company has performed scientific surveys for school districts both large and small for 15 years.

"We developed a process where we have a core starting point," DeSieghardt said. "We make sure that when we go out to the field to collect the opinions of your patrons that everyone who wants to be an active participant can be an active participant.

"What we try to do is make certain that all the issues that you feel you would like to hear from your patrons are addressed."

DeSieghardt pointed out that school boards often hear only from patrons who are ecstatic or disgruntled and not those in between.

"You will hear from those people you only hear from sometimes on election day," he said.

Board President Janine Gracy said she liked that DeSieghardt would reach out to patrons who don't always express their opinions to the board.

"He is so right," Gracy said. "You hear from people that are gung ho about your school district and people that are disillusioned about your district. We need to hear from that 80 percent."

The district last had a survey two years ago, but it was not scientific, said Alvie Cater, director of community relations. Patrons received postcards from the district asking them to go online to answer survey questions.

About 750 responses were recorded online, but there was not a way to prevent respondents from completing the survey more than once, Cater said.

A scientific survey was last performed in the district in July 2002. A random sample of 302 registered voters was conducted. About 75 percent of those contacted agreed to participate in the survey.

Johnson said although he wanted to find out what patrons in the district wanted for their facilities, he did not agree with DeSieghardt's approach.

"Looking at their brochure their major selling point was 'we'll get you a yes vote' and to me that is telling me that it doesn't matter whether it's right or wrong or whether we step on the wrong toes that whatever it takes we will get a yes vote," he said.

Johnson said he also had issues with spending $13,800 on a survey.

"The money is a huge issue," he said. "I don't think it's money that needs to be spent. We know some of the important items that need to be addressed as part of these last two bond issues."

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