Archive for Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Survey doesn’t clear issues for De Soto board

February 26, 2008

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De Soto USD 232 Board of Education members didn't get a clear direction from patrons on how to address the district's needs, according to the results of its scientific survey.

The $13,800 survey conducted by DeSieghardt Strategic Communications asked 400 patrons why they thought previous bond referendums had failed, what school sizes they would support and what possible future bond projects they would favor. Results of the survey were given to board members during a special meeting Monday.

Asked to give open-ended responses to why the September 2007 and the November 2006 bond referendums failed, 224 patrons said it was because taxes are too high.

Patrons were more divided on the size and number of schools.

About 46 percent preferred more, smaller schools while 40 percent wanted fewer, larger schools and 14 percent answered "don't know."

Although slightly more people said they wanted more, smaller schools, the view was conflicted by answers to other questions.

About 56 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote in favor of a bond referendum that called for expanding De Soto and Mill Valley high schools instead of building a third high school, 19 percent said they would be more likely to vote against such a proposal and 22 percent said it would make no difference.

Asked if the district proposed building a third high school instead of adding on to De Soto and Mill Valley, 31 percent said they would be more likely to vote in favor, 48 percent said they would be more likely to vote against such a proposal and 17 percent said it would make no difference.

Patrons also were divided on other proposals that had been on past bond referendums. The lack of consensus makes it more difficult for school board members decide what to do next.

"There is not a clear direction there," board member Jim Thomas said. "I think what is going to make or break the next bond is how we communicate to patrons the needs and the educational philosophies of the district."

Thomas compared education to a 401(k) plan. He said both should be viewed as investments instead of singular costs.

"What we have to do is package the educational opportunities for our children as an investment in our future," he said. "It's all about how we position it and give people the complete information."

Thomas said if the board gets its message out about the approach it decides, then patrons would be more likely to support it.

"It's getting the facts out void of emotion," he said. "Here's what we are standing for, here's why we are standing for it. We don't have a singular voice, and it's a real struggle.

"I would go as a board member from presentation to presentation to any organization that would hear it."

Thomas said he was surprised how many patrons responded with "they did not know," or that something "made no difference."

"If you add those let's say 60 percent of those that responded in that manner and add that to the yeses, you win," he said. "Conversely if you add that to the nos, you lose."

Board member Randy Johnson said he did not approve of the survey and left the meeting before the results were presented.

For complete results of the survey, visit shawneedispatch. com or go to the district's Web site, www.usd232.org.

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