Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pinellas calling: district to conduct survey about its schools, communication efforts

Keep your phone handy: the Pinellas County school district may be calling you for your two cents beginning next week.

The district announced at a School Board meeting Tuesday that it is contracting with the University of North Florida's Public Opinion Research Laboratory to survey more than 1,000 families on their local schools and district communication efforts.

Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego said the move comes after a recent Tampa Bay Times story about families in northeast St. Petersburg rallying around their neighborhood school, North Shore Elementary, to make it the number one school choice for families who are surrounded by other options.

"We as a district have grown and looking for better ways to introduce information to the community in various ways for community members and parents to get attached to their community school," he said.

Melanie Marquez Parra, the district's director of communications, said her department was inspired by the Austin Independent School District, which presented research found through surveys at a recent Council of Great City Schools conference.

The district will pay $18,400 for the survey which will be conducted before winter break, in the midst of school open houses, discovery nights and magnet application season.

“Maybe the school down the street has what the families are looking for and they just don’t know it,” Parra said. “It’s really about understanding what people want to know and how they want to know it.”

“It’s the right time to do this,” she added.

Michael Binder, PORL's faculty director, said his lab has worked with school districts to survey communities on topics from policies to sex education awareness.

The lab’s employees, who are mostly UNF students, plan to cold call up to 1,000 families — including current families, families who have left the school district or families who may have applied but never enrolled in a public school–  on the cell phone and landline numbers. They plan to ask a mix of 20 to 30 close-ended questions, where respondents can pick answers like “excellent,” “good,” “fair” and “poor,” and open-ended questions.

The questions center around key ideas: What are the most important factors families consider when choosing a school? How do families prefer to receive information about a current or potential school? Is the district providing information families want to make informed choices? What can the district do through its communication efforts to further support neighborhood schools?

Not all of the questions are being created from scratch — some have been used previously and have been tested for validity, though they will be tailored to Pinellas. There will be questions that will be the same for callers countywide as well as specific geographical questions pertaining to nearby neighborhood schools.

The district will call families around the county, but it also plans to target Dunedin in its survey. Parra said there are a “cluster of schools there with the potential to grow.” She said the district is how responses vary from families in different areas.

The answers are confidential — all names and numbers will be stripped from survey answers, which will be aggregated, Binder said. The findings are expected to be ready by January.

“The heart of the matter is we want to understand better parental decision-making when it comes to the schools in which they send their children,” he said. “We want to get a better sense of overall opinions and overall thoughts so Pinellas can do a better job of marketing to constituents and customers.”

Comments
Spring testing window extended because of fall hurricanes

Spring testing window extended because of fall hurricanes

A busy 2017 hurricane season kept hundreds of thousands of Florida students out of school for days, if not weeks, this past fall.First came closures in anticipation of Irma. Then came the extended time off to allow schools time to clean up, and staff...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Florida education news: Water pipes, gender rights, textbook choices and more

Florida education news: Water pipes, gender rights, textbook choices and more

IN THE WATER: A Pinellas County middle school continues to hand out water bottles to students as it clears its pipes of copper and iron. Officials say the levels are now safe, but want to keep up the effort as a precaution.GUNS ON CAMPUS: Two La...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Update: Two students arrested after gun found near Lakewood High

Update: Two students arrested after gun found near Lakewood High

Two Lakewood High students arrested Monday now face felony weapons charges after the school was placed on lockdown following reports of a weapon on campus.The 16-year-olds will be charged with possession of a weapon on a school campus ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Seminole Middle water test results come back clean, district says

Seminole Middle water test results come back clean, district says

Pinellas County school district officials say the water levels in Seminole Middle School's cafeteria, which was found to have "high levels" of copper and iron this week, are now within the Environmental Protection Agency's safe guidelines.Distri...
Published: 12/11/17
USF nets Institution of the Year award from D.C. publication

USF nets Institution of the Year award from D.C. publication

For its use of data to help students stay in college and graduate on time, the University of South Florida was named higher education's "institution of the year" by a D.C.-based education publication.The honor comes as USF celebrates i...
Published: 12/11/17
Florida education news: Computer classes, testing, term limits and more

Florida education news: Computer classes, testing, term limits and more

GONE DIGITAL: Duval County schools make strides in getting more girls into computer courses, the Florida Times-Union reports.AFTER THE STORM: The Miami-Dade County school district seeks testing waivers for students who enrolled after fleein...
Published: 12/11/17
ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Dec. 2, 2017

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Dec. 2, 2017

Hard to believe, but winter break is fast approaching, and Florida schools are turning their focus to first semester exams. Still, the news continues about bullying, bus rides, block scheduling and more.  Catch up on the highlights of the week's...
Published: 12/09/17
Florida education news: Board vacancies, school choice, choice words and more

Florida education news: Board vacancies, school choice, choice words and more

ON BOARD: The terms of three Florida Board of Education members expire this month, with a fourth still officially unfilled from 2016. That's a majority of seats on the seven-person panel that Gov. Rick Scott gets to pick. Observers are watching ...
Published: 12/08/17
In Pinellas, neighborhood schools are options, too

In Pinellas, neighborhood schools are options, too

There's a movement in St. Petersburg to rally families around their neighborhood school instead of beelining toward the Pinellas County school district's exclusive magnet and fundamental options.But for many families, another neighborhood school that...
Published: 12/07/17
Updated: 12/08/17
In Hillsborough, charter schools are the elephant in the boardroom

In Hillsborough, charter schools are the elephant in the boardroom

More fallout from Tuesday's Hillsborough County School Board meeting involves charter schools.The board, as promised, heard a presentation from charter schools director Jenna Hodgens about the many charter applications that are withdrawn before they ...
Published: 12/07/17