Smaller classes, different schedule: Survey reveals parents' wish list for Gilbert schools - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Smaller classes, different schedule: Survey reveals parents' wish list for Gilbert schools

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Posted: Saturday, August 25, 2012 7:30 am | Updated: 2:54 pm, Mon Aug 27, 2012.

Gilbert parents want foreign language offered at a younger age, smaller class sizes, and an opportunity to consider a modified year-round schedule.

The information came from a community survey conducted in the spring by the Gilbert Unified School District. Results of the phone survey were released Tuesday night to the district’s governing board.

The survey – conducted with 10- to 15-minute interviews of 400 parents and 205 others – showed “an overwhelmingly positive” impression of the district, said Kathy DeBoer, a vice president at WestGroup. The district hired WestGroup to conduct the survey.

Of parents, 89 percent gave the district a rating of “A” or “B” this year. That figure was just one percent lower than 2008, the last time the survey was taken.

“The big message to our teachers: ‘You’re doing a good job and our parents appreciate it,’” board president EJ Anderson said during the meeting.

When the scores for all those asked are combined, 71 percent give the district an “A” or “B.”

This is the fifth time since 2001 that the district has taken the community survey. It’s been done every two years, with the exception of 2010.

The total cost of the 41-question survey was $26,500, district spokeswoman Dianne Bowers said.

Questions ranged from course offerings and how well teachers are performing to child safety, the district’s website and what challenges the district is facing.

“I think any good organization has to know what the perceptions are out there and what its strengths and weaknesses are. That’s why this survey is so critical. To move forward we need to take this information and make decisions,” Anderson told the Tribune later this week.

Two pieces of information – about foreign language offerings and the district’s calendar – may be worked on right away, she said.

Currently, the district operates on a typical August to May calendar. The survey asked if people would be interested in a modified year-round calendar, like that used in the Chandler Unified School District, and 52 percent of responders said they would support a change.

The survey was conducted in May and June and included a question about whether or not those asked would support renewal of the district’s budget override. The results show 64 percent of those asked would support the override.

It is not clear how many of those are registered voters in Gilbert.

The governing board was given that information prior to voting to place the budget override renewal on the Nov. 6 ballot, Anderson said.

According to a Facebook page, one Gilbert resident filed a complaint against the district because of the override question on the survey. The complaint claims the district violated Arizona law that states public schools cannot use personnel or resources to influence an election.

The district denied that inference.

The two questions (out of a total of 41) related to the Nov. 6 override were based on decisions and discussions of the governing board in public meetings, including the fact that if the override does not pass it means a loss of approximately $17 million from the district budget over the next three years, Gilbert’s assistant superintendent Clyde Dangerfield told the Tribune.

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