The results from a mail-in survey that was sent to Shelton households earlier this year are in, and overall they reveal that most residents do not have a good idea of what is going on within the city's public school system.
Last year's had approved a $20,000 contract with a marketing company; First Experience Communications was paid to create the two-part survey and its president, Ira Yellen, presented the response findings at a meeting held May 3.
The survey was sent to 15,980 Shelton addresses and realized a 5.2 percent response rate, or 838 households. Of those returned surveys, 65 percent were from households with no children currently attending Shelton public schools, and more than 82 percent of respondents said they have lived in Shelton 11 years or more.
Overall conclusions of the study, as reported by First Communications, were:
- The survey revealed the community’s lack of understanding on school goals, accomplishments, and overall value.
- General frustration and confusion has been perpetuated by a lack of communication from the BOE.
- Residents are currently getting the bulk of their information on Shelton schools by word-of-mouth from friends, neighbors and students.
- People want to hear directly from the school system, which necessitates a proactive communication plan.
When asked whether they agreed that the BOE effectively communicates about its schools:
- 17 percent agreed
- 42 percent disagreed
- 39 percent were "not sure"
The survey asked respondents to specify what information they needed to know prior to making an informed decision about schools. That breakdown is as follows:
- Education goals and outcomes (test scores, curriculum, technology abilities) — 84%
- Budget items/expenditures — 68%
- Property tax implications — 36%
Question: What do you think are the two most important skills provided by the public school system? Responses:Skill Frequency Percent Critical thinking 574 68% Career training 305 36% Global competitiveness 147 17% College readiness 527 63% Other 65
Question: What areas do you think communities should invest in to teach those skills? Responses:Frequency Percent Rigorous curriculum 439 52% Modern facilities 172 20% Talented teachers 554 66% Advanced placement 109 13% Internships 123 15% Magnet school placement 38 4% Longer school days 82 10% Enrichment 83 10% Extracurricular 49 6% Other 31 4%
Based on the findings from the surveys, First Communication's recommendations for the BOE include:
- Sending regular printed newsletters (minimum of three per year) that highlight successes of the school district, where students go to college, quality of teaching, curriculum, etc.
- A total revamp of the public schools website: "From a communications perspective, the current site is mostly lists of compulsory and regulations information. There is no context of value, success, or results, and is not effectively communicating with your public."
- Issuing short monthly e-newsletters that explain what’s going on in K-12, "so parents share the perspective of the whole district, and start to think beyond their own child’s classroom."
- Review communication coming out of each school, and develop guidelines for consistency in effective messaging, value sharing, and elements of inclusion.
BOE member Jay Francino-Quinn had previously . Even with the information gathered from the results, Francino-Quinn said he still does not agree with the expense.
"I think it was absolutely not worth it, not in any way, shape or form. When I saw the surveys, it really wasn’t all that great. We were also told that thousands and thousands were sent out, but I never got one and neither did some of my neighbors," he said.
Fellow Board member Arlene Liscinsky, on the other hand, saw the information as useful and helpful in building up the school system going forward.
"From a board perspective, it's something we’ve wanted to do -- to figure out how to better engage the community, and so a lot of the results were interesting," she said.