By Jessie Wagoner
McPHERSON—McPherson Public Schools conducted a community survey during the month of October, and now the results are in.
Corey Barenbrugge with LINK Strategic Partners shared the survey results with members of the McPherson Public Schools Board of Education during their regularly scheduled meeting last week.
The survey, which was available for community members to take either online or via a paper survey, was open throughout the entire month of October. Just fewer than 1,500 respondents began the survey, and 989 people completed the entire survey. The survey, which took about 13 minutes to complete, covered a variety of topics related to district needs, community desires and future planning.
“The thing that excited me about this is it provided a new avenue for engagement for nearly, if not more than 1,000 people,” Barenbrugge said.
Responses were gathered from community members without children in the district, parents of current, former, or future students, and staff and teachers. Barenbrugge said he was pleased to see such high staff and teacher engagement. A total of 291 district employees completed the survey, and an additional 270 community members who are not parents of students also completed the survey.
The survey was completed to help the board and district as they move forward in addressing facility needs and prepare for another potential bond election. Barenbrugge said the survey results should be used to provide a baseline understanding knowledge of and understanding of the school district and attitudes about current facilities. He said they can also be used to help foster additional engagement opportunities and the community’s desire to invest.
The survey results indicated that the majority of respondents support the idea that something needs to be done to improve the current facilities. Seventy percent of respondents felt that McPherson can meet the challenge of providing school facilities, and 80 percent felt an investment is needed.
While the majority of respondents felt updates are needed and are supportive of a community investment, the results show there is some confusion over what the exact needs are. The good news from this result is it provides the district with a clearer view of how to educate the community on the needs. This opens opportunities for town hall meetings, facility tours and social media outreach to increase understanding among community members.
“There is a portion of the population that would benefit from more information on the basics of what a bond is, what it can be used for and how McPherson would use it to improve facilities,” Barenbrugge said.
Another standout from the survey was that there is a lack of planning priorities among the community. There was no one particular area of improvement that received a majority of responses. This is also an indicator of additional education for community members. In the future, it could also be helpful for the district to prioritize improvements and help guide community members.
More than 50 percent of the respondents said the district should have held more town-hall-style meetings in advance of the bond. Unfortunately, COVID precautions prevented many of those types of meetings to be held. In the future, the district will look to schedule more community meetings as allowed.
Trust and transparency were other common themes expressed by respondents throughout the survey.
“There were certainly concerns about trust expressed throughout the comments,” Barenbrugge said. “The need to felt heard, more communication, greater transparency were very common in the comments.”
Barenbrugge provided the following initial recommendations after reviewing the results:
- Increase engagement and information sharing
- Diversify the methods of engagement
- Re-envision the possibilities for the future
- Work through the current moment
Key descriptors used to describe McPherson from the survey results