Everett school survey finds high satisfaction, but areas of worry

EVERETT — Everett Public Schools’ first foray into online opinion surveys has garnered nearly 7,500 discrete comments from more than 4,000 people.

Those comments are now available for all to see at everettsd.thoughtexchange.com.

The question now becomes how the district will use the data.

“It’s going to take some time,” said Mary Waggoner, district communications director.

There will likely be a board presentation on the results in late May, she said. The data will figure into the board’s planning for the future.

“The one thing I can say is we’re not going to do anything quick because there’s so much to look at,” she said.

Participants in the district’s survey included parents, school and district staff and concerned residents without children in the public schools.

The participants remained anonymous to district officials and each other, and each contributor could add comments and rank others’ comments as well.

The results are broken into categories by school, along with general district-wide comments under the heading “Everett community.” Comments are further divided into three categories: concerns, appreciations and other thoughts, and then divided again by those from parents, staff, or other community members, and yet again by subject matter.

Casual perusal of the results reveals a few broad-based trends: district residents are largely happy with the quality of education and with teachers’ dedication to their students.

“Overall teachers care about their students and their community,” one person wrote. “They want their students to succeed. Teachers spend way more time, effort and money than most people realize to support and teach their students.”

That’s tempered with a widespread belief that teachers are overworked, stressed out and at risk for burnout.

“I think teachers have always had more work than can be done in a regular work day, but it seems that more and more time is required to devote to assessments, evaluations and work beyond what impacts students in the classroom,” another writer said.

The top categories for positive feedback also included school culture and atmosphere, the use of technology in school, and communications between teachers, parents and students.

Another common trend is the view that the schools are overcrowded and that class sizes are too large. Those comments were not restricted to the south end of the district, which is growing faster than elsewhere and has some of the most acute overcrowding, especially at Woodside Elementary, which will transfer 150 students to Silver Lake Elementary next year.

The condition of many schools was also an issue. The state of the facilities at North Middle School, for example, was the most active category of commenting.

“North Middle School is old and seriously needs renovations,” one of the top comments said. “Poor ventilation, lighting, small science rooms without the needed space for students to perform activities/experiments.”

Also listed among the top concerns were funding and budget issues, the food program, and some about academics and course programming.

Running as an undercurrent through the comments was continued dissatisfaction with the district’s decision to build the Community Resource Center.

It was not identified as one of the top subjects for commenting in the survey, but nonetheless was present in many other categories, and the Thoughtexchange staff highlighted those comments to the district.

“It’s a way of acknowledging that it, too, was one of the items that people talked about, and to not keep it the elephant under the sheet in the room,” Waggoner said.

The district’s headquarters was an issue in last year’s two bond failures in the district, and resentment still lingers.

“People are not voting for the levies because of the decisions the school board has made,” wrote one participant. “I understand the building needed to be built and everything needed to be centralized however we could have not spent so much money on it and used the extra on upgrade or repairs on the schools that need it.”

The district has a three-year, $130,000 contract with Fulcrum Management Solutions of Rossland, British Columbia, to use its Thoughtexchange surveying software with its residents.

People can still sign up for future surveys at everettsd.thoughtexchange.com/invitation.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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