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‘Survey fatigue’ a D65 concern

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A concern that the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board conducts too many parent surveys was a topic of discussion at Monday night’s board meeting.

For the past three years, the district has conducted a parental survey in the fall to get a feel for the issues that parents are concerned about. 

The plan for this year was to include questions from the principals about specific individual school issues that would be helpful to the staff and the PTAs on issues pertaining to those schoools.

But this year, the survey takes on a new dimension, as the board is conducting an executive search to replace Superintendent Hardy Murphy, who resigned unexpectedly last month, just before the school year began.

The board already has a contract with the ECRA Group, a national educational research and analytical services consulting firm that it has used in the past, and it has been working with ECRA to broaden the survey to cover more topics that would assist in developing a new strategic plan for the district.

But now there are additional questions the board wants to ask, to gain some insights into the traits that parents, as well as teachers, administrative staff, and community members, would like to see in their next superintendent.

In the spring, the district conducts a state-mandated survey based on the Five Essentials of a well-functioning school district.

So the question they were discussing Monday night is whether the district should go ahead with the annual survey in the fall, structured along the lines of information needed for the strategic plan, and then conduct another survey that zeroes in on questions about the potential new superintendent, followed by the five-essentials survey in the spring.

Member Eileen Budde thought the district may be asking for information too many times and that what she termed “survey fatigue” would result in many parents refusing to answer multiple surveys, assuming they had already been there and done that.

From a financial standpoint, it would be less expensive to add a few questions to the fall survey that would accommodate all of the objectives, rather than to commission a separate firm to conduct a stakeholder survey solely to accommodate the superintendent-search issues.

Dr. John Gata, president and CEO of ECRA, assured the board that his firm is well-equipped to conduct either survey separately, or to combine both surveys into one.

While no decisions were made at this “working” meeting of the board, Dr. Gata said he would come back to the board with some recommendations for them to consider.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio stations and business-oriented magazines.

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