Survey Says…

Published 4:08 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2013

PRINCE EDWARD – County and school officials are looking to survey the community on education, but at least one local resident is concerned over who is receiving the surveys.

“I noticed that very few people got (the survey),” Frank Early told the school board last week. “Evidentially, it was a list of selected people that was to get these surveys that the County, not the school, the County paid for.”

Early asked if it were true that the school system gave a list to the contractor that sent out the survey.

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“…If it is, I think we better check into it because we're deceiving the County, board of supervisors and the school system itself,” Early said. “So I think you all should look into it and find out what's going on with this survey.”

Early suggested that if it is not done properly, they should send the County their money back.

School officials would later note that a company (National Research Center) was hired to conduct the survey and that they did the random selection of 3,000 from a list of households.

“…They had (a) three-tier communication plan,” explained Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith. “There was a postcard that they sent letting people know that they'd been selected, then they followed that up with the survey itself and then after a period of time…there is another letter just as a reminder in case you forgot to send it in. And, so there was no other distribution of surveys and no one in the school division had anything to do with the random drawing. That's why the company was hired…and the board of supervisors…Neither group had anything to do with it.”

The two boards met last September and, with the aid of consultants, tackled varied school issues. At the end of the session, the boards looked to a survey of the community that, as conceived at that meeting, would be used to lay the foundation for a community forum or a series of community meetings to have a conversation with the citizens of Prince Edward about what's working in public education, what they want for the future of public education and the things that they must work on today to make sure that the system is quality today and quality tomorrow.

The survey was expected to cost about $35,000 and include development and administration cost, mailing, analysis and follow-up cost, and development of follow-up planning to deal with the concerns.

The 3,000 figure, County Administrator Wade Bartlett cited last Friday, was suggested by surveyors.

“Actually, you get better data from my time in statistics in both of my masters, you actually get better data when you don't inspect or ask everybody…,” he said.

Of the 3,000, only about 418 were not able to be delivered, which Bartlett noted is “pretty good.” Bartlett said he had not received a report on the number of responses.

Selection of those who received the survey was done randomly, he reaffirmed. Neither the County nor the school board had anything to do with who the surveys were sent to.

Although two school board members noted they received a survey, Bartlett said he had not.

Bartlett noted that the company met with the superintendent, school board chairman, board of supervisors chairman, and the county administrator.

“…They talked to us. I think they asked us a lot of questions and we answered those questions of what the concerns were on both…the school board's side and then the board of supervisors side,” he stated.

The company developed the survey and “then they…showed us” and, as he recalled, the only tweak they did to it was “basically grammar.”

The two-page survey asked participants to rank a response on a scale from excellent, good, fair, poor and don't know in a spectrum of areas from overall quality, to safety, overall direction of the school and reputation. Participants were also asked what helps them form opinions about the school; how likely they would be to recommend the school system to those thinking about sending their children to the school; how likely they would be to support a property tax increase that amounted to $25 per year for the average home in the county; and a host of opinions on a range of other issues.