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Online poll seeks teacher input

While participation in an anonymous survey evaluatingadministrative performance has received varying degrees ofpromotion from area school district leaders, teachers now haveuntil this Friday to take part in the Project Clear Voice onlinequestionnaire.

As of Friday afternoon, the participation rate in the survey -to be found at www.projectclearvoice.com – by Brookhaven SchoolDistrict teachers was 1.22 percent while the Lincoln County SchoolDistrict’s percentage was 18.36 percent. Copiah County had a 23.35percent participation rate and Lawrence County was nearing 100percent participation Friday.

The overall state participation rate as of Friday was 58.64percent. Mississippi currently has the highest participation ratein the nation, according to the Mississippi Department ofEducation’s Web site.

Brookhaven Superintendent Lea Barrett said survey participationhas not been promoted in the district, although teachers have beengiven the information they need to access the survey online.

“I didn’t see an overwhelming need to push this on them,” shesaid. “I’ve discussed it with the principals and the codes areavailable. Teachers are more than welcome to fill it out, and ifthey’re having problems getting a code, they can get one from myoffice.”

Teachers are given codes that are district-specific so theiridentity is never revealed, but their districts can be informed ofboth the participation numbers and the tone of the responses. Aschool district must have 40 percent participation in order to havethe results of the survey sent to the district.

Barrett said not only has the information about the survey beenreleased to the teachers, but it is also on the MississippiDepartment of Education Web site, accessible at www.mde.k12.ms.us.In addition, a help line is also available for teachers by calling1-800-383-6802.

“Brookhaven is small and our school board is so open, I hopethat if there were significant problems they would already havereported them to us,” said Barrett about any potential teacherconcerns. “Sometimes people don’t respond to surveys like this whenthere’s not a problem.”

Lincoln County Schools Superintendent Terry Brister saidteachers were made aware of the Project Clear Voice and the codesneeded to submit their surveys. However, as in the city, the countydistrict has not actively promoted the program.

He was pleased that 38 of the district’s 207 teachers, or 18.36percent, had already participated in the project.

“I would like that percentage to go up,” he said. “It might helpus establish some needs we have. It’s a good measuring stick for anevaluation.”

The study, Brister said, is not designed solely for teachers tovoice complaints, but also to express the “needs and concerns wehave as a school, a district and a state.”

“If we all get together on this, we can do that,” Bristersaid.

Martha Traxler, director of personnel and testing for the CopiahCounty School District, agreed.

“It’s definitely a good tool,” she said. “The ultimate goal isto improve learning, and studies show that when teachers are happy,feel supported and are in a positive environment, it certainlyaffects learning. And, it will help us to keep teachers by pointingout areas they may feel are not adequate.”

Each district, Traxler said, approached notifying teachers ofthe project differently. In Copiah County, the teachers werepresented with a video clip of State Superintendent Hank Bounds andother key educators appealing to them for their support.

The teachers were then assured participation was voluntary andanonymous, she said. Codes were given to the teachers by theirprincipals and it was a teacher’s choice whether to use the code ornot participate.

The original deadline for surveys was March 5. But according tothe MDE Web site, because of the fact that 57 percent of educatorsnationwide have responded, the deadline has been extended “incelebration.”

Traxler said she was happy to see the deadline postponed for aweek because of the county’s increasing participation in thestudy.

“We really weren’t given a lot of time,” she said. “By the time(the schools) had their faculty meetings, it was already nearlyinto March. I don’t think we’ll get 100 percent, but we encourageall of our schools to at least get the 40 percent needed for areport.”

In Lawrence County, however, Superintendent Russell Caudillexpected the district to reach 100 percent by the end of the dayFriday. Teachers were all given codes to log into the survey andeach school provided a computer to take the survey, he said.

“I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “It gives the teachers avoice in how our schools are running. If they perceive a problem,this is a good place to voice it. It’s a good evaluation of thesystem.”