Survey seeks views on school district

Published 6:33 pm Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Brookhaven School District is being forced to re-evaluatecosts and the importance of programs and supplies with cuts comingdown from the state government. One way they’re working on pinningdown priorities is through an online survey for parents, teachersand community members.

“You know schools are better when parents and the community areinvolved, and sometimes having a way people can talk anonymouslymakes people able to give a more truthful comment on what needsimprovement,” said Brookhaven School District Superintendent LeaBarrett.

The anonymous survey, which can be found at, asksquestions about curriculum, the teaching staff, perception of eachschool in the district and other issues facing people connectedwith the school district. Barrett said many initiatives from stateand federal education entities encourage schools to have surveysavailable for people to fill out to let educators know what needsare facing their districts.

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“Those perceptions by parents are not something that should bedismissed,” she said. “And if you see a strong mismatch betweenperception and what objective data tells you, then communication isyour problem.”

Barrett said the survey results will be weighed againstobjective data like test scores, dropout rates and graduationrates, and conclusions will be reached that will help to determinewhat measures need to be taken as further budget cuts areimplemented in the coming school year.

“As soon as we get that we can break it out by school, and we’llmeet with principals and department directors and let them look atthe comments aimed at the school, site or service and talk aboutthat in house,” she said.

The important thing, Barrett said, is just getting honestfeedback from the public on the positives, negatives and needs ofthe district.

“We want to make sure we get feedback in an honest fashion andwe want to know what the perception is, and see if it aligns withwhat the objective data tells us so we can do some data-drivendecision making,” Barrett said. “We don’t have a prior notion ofwhat we are looking for, we just want to know what parents and thecommunity think. This needs assessment is how we plan to deal withthe federal and state budget, and it will help us prioritize.”

Barrett said in the past, the district has utilized surveys, butthat the online survey is a good way to make the survey moreaccessible and to encourage people to complete it.

“I think everyone’s always done surveys, and we’re trying tomove forward and use technology to our advantage,” she said.

School officials have said that 15-20 certified positions,including teachers, counselors, behaviorists and administrators,will be cut for the 2010-2011 school year. On top of that, 25-30classified positions, which include teacher assistants, busdrivers, janitorial crew and clerical positions, will also beeliminated. Other programs and perks that are not absolutelynecessary are being cut as well, they said.

Barrett said the cuts are unavoidable since three quarters ofthe district’s budget goes to payroll. However, the exact number ofpositions to be cut is not set in stone because of ongoing budgetdiscussions in the Mississippi Legislature.