School district wraps up survey program

La Cañada Unified School District officials are moving into the final stages of a districtwide survey that could help shape everything from annual goals and school safety policies to curriculum.

The district recently wrapped up a parent questionnaire, the third of four surveys being administered this spring. It was preceded by surveys of students and teachers, and will be followed by a survey of classified staff.

The parent survey was conducted online, with participants required to log into a secure website using an access code. Participation topped 20%, district officials said.

“The superintendent's committee did major outreach to all the school sites,” Supt. Wendy Sinnette said. “Though parent returns were initially low, they ended up being very strong.”

Studying and making public the survey results are among the superintendent's goals for the 2011-12 school year. The work kicked off in the fall when Sinnette began assembling a committee to work with an outside firm to draft questions.

The process took months, according to Ellen Multari, the La Cañada school board vice president and a member of the survey committee. Questions varied depending on the target group, she said, but addressed issues such as school climate, safety, curriculum and administrative effectiveness.

“We also tried to focus on things like what can we, as parents, be doing to help support our children in the classroom,” Multari said. “We tend to focus on what can the district being doing for our kids. It is a partnership, it is the home-school connection that makes for the strongest experience for the child.”

The surveys are part of a larger push to build a transparent culture within the district in which staff members can collect and effectively respond to feedback, Sinnette said.

“It will be our practice from now on,” Sinnette said.

Officials said they expect to gather the completed survey data in the coming months and will prepare a public presentation.

“I think it will give us some very strong feedback,” Multari said. “It initiates a discussion in the classroom.”

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