The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 28, 2013

Buckeye starts survey of voters

Firm hired to obtain responses from public

By CARL E. FEATHER - cfeather@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —  At least 300 registered voters in the Buckeye Local Schools District can expect a phone call early next month.

The call will be coming from MKC Associates of New Philadelphia, which is conducting a survey for the board of education. Superintendent Joseph Spiccia made the survey recommendation to the board late last year as a way to take the community’s pulse on two important areas: district performance and spending priorities.

“We’re pretty excited to begin a process of community engagement that will help us meet the needs of the students and community,” Spiccia said.

MKC developed the list of questions after meeting with the board, which provided the company with an idea of what it wanted to garner from the survey. Spiccia said the company will charge the district up to $6,000 to conduct the survey, compile the data and present the results to the board at its April meeting.

“We have some outside funding for this,” Spiccia said.

Voters in the district will be randomly selected for the telephone portion of the work, which will begin Monday and should be completed eight days later. MKC is guaranteeing that responses from at least 300 voters will be obtained for the survey.

“What MKC tells us is that with 300 phone responses, we get a statistically significant amount of data,” Spiccia said.

All the same, the district also is sending paper copies of the survey to the parents of students in kindergarten through eighth grade on Monday. The surveys will be sent home with the students. Survey forms will be available at Edgewood Senior High School, Kingsville Public Library and the Ashtabula County District Library, as well. District residents are encouraged to stop by one of those locations and complete the survey. Spiccia said MKC hopes to have input from at least 300 of these “hard copy” survey forms. Deadline for returning them will be March 12.

Additionally, the survey will be online starting Monday at the district’s website, www.buckeyeschools.info.x

There are 27 questions on the survey. The first section deals with demographics; Spiccia said surveys from those who are not residents of the district will be set aside, but the data will be considered, especially as it relates to open enrollment. The second section will deal with the public’s perception of the district and ranking of priorities, such as smaller classes, preschool programs and school resource officer availability.

“We are trying to measure satisfaction with the district,” Spiccia said. “Is what we are doing matching the community’s wants? How do we know what those wants are if we don’t ask them?”

The final section deals with financial issues — public perception of how education is funded in Ohio and how well that money is spent by Buckeye, for starters. The survey then delves attitudes toward district tax issues, for both operations and new construction. Throughout the survey, participants are asked to rank their priorities for services provided by the district.

“The only way to help people is to know what help they need,” he said. “I think that, too often, public entities operate in the blind.”

Spiccia said the district also holds focus groups and coffees with district parents to gather feedback. During March, Spiccia will be meeting with senior and junior high students from the district.

“Young people know what good teaching looks like and what good teachers do, and we need to listen to them,” he said.

Overall, the survey and focus groups give the community issue a report card on its schools, just as the state does from an academic-performance perspective.

“The (state) report cards don’t measure issues like caring, sense of community and soft skills,” he said. Nevertheless, Spiccia said it is mastery of those skills that often determine whether or not a person gets hired — and keeps a job.

“Part of our responsibility is to help young people know how (those skills) should look,” he said.