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On Sept. 10, the District 65 School Board discussed the parameters of a stakeholder survey planned for this fall in light of new developments:  the need to conduct a search for a new superintendent and a decision to delay preparation of a new three- or five-year strategic plan until after a new superintendent is in place. The ECRA Group, a research consulting firm, was retained last spring to administer the survey.

Board president Tracy Quattrocki noted that search firms retained to assist in finding a new superintendent often use a survey to gather feedback from the community about the qualities and characteristics the community desires in a superintendent before beginning a search. They also use surveys to help define a vision for school districts that can help guide the search.

Members of the Board reached a concensus that they would like the survey to provide information on four topics: a) how the District is progressing in key areas, compared to prior periods; b) views on individual schools; c) a rank ordering of priorities to help define a broad vision for the District; and d) the qualities and characteristics they are looking for in a superintendent.

Board members also said they would like to reduce the number of questions on the survey from prior years, and to eliminate survey questions that are covered by the 5Essentials Survey administered by the Illinois State Board of Education for the first time last spring.

John Gatta, a principal with the ECRA Group, said a survey could accomplish these objectives by maintaining a laser-like focus and not getting into a lot of sub-areas. He said ECRA would prepare stakeholder surveys to meet these parameters and submit drafts next week for the Board to review.

It is contemplated that surveys will be administered to parents, teachers, administrators, and the community at large.

The Board focused discussion on how to increase the number of survey responses from African American and Hispanic parents. On the 2012 survey administered by ECRA, 12% of the respondents were African American and 7% were Hispanic; 25% of the student body was African American and 18% Hispanic.

Suni Kartha said, “We might be getting information from one subset.” Katie Bailey said, “The disrepresentation is something we’re trying to fix.” Candance Chow said, “For this really to be very useful, it needs to be representative.”

Ms. Chow added, “We might need to be more creative in the ways we get parents of children that aren’t well represented.” She suggested engaging with churches, Family Focus and Fleetwood and explaining to persons the importance of the information. “It may mean being visibly more present,” she said.

Ms. Quattrocki suggested asking principals to actively solicit responses from parents in their schools, which she said was done in obtaining responses to the 5Essentials survey.

Ms. Chow suggested surveying parents who transferred their children from District 65 to another school. Ms. Bailey suggested surveying ninth graders on whether they thought District 65 prepared them for high school.