No timeline for school survey

Vendor bid ends `due to board decision not to proceed’

Posted 12/23/14

A Douglas County School District community survey, repeatedly requested by school board critics for the last couple years, is not planned anytime soon.

DCSD issued a request for potential survey vendors in June 2014, but the bid was not awarded …

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No timeline for school survey

Vendor bid ends `due to board decision not to proceed’


A Douglas County School District community survey, repeatedly requested by school board critics for the last couple years, is not planned anytime soon.

DCSD issued a request for potential survey vendors in June 2014, but the bid was not awarded “due to board decision not to proceed in the community survey effort,” according to Rocky Mountain E-Purchasing System. The online system provides local government agencies a way to notify vendors of bid opportunities.

School board president Kevin Larsen said the board is still considering the best way to conduct an effective survey.

“We’re still moving ahead but we’re doing it very deliberately,” he said. “There’s no never, but there’s no specific timetable. We are continuing to examine the right way to proceed.”

Larsen said the information from a survey could inform the district’s policies and vision.

“So we want to make sure that we get input from every part of the community, including parents, teachers, students and community members,” he said.

Douglas County resident Pat Crowley is disappointed.

“It shouldn’t take them that long; they’ve been promising it since the spring,” she said. “It’s been promised multiple times. And every other school district seems to be able to get a survey out.

“I’ve lived here 22 years and I want my voice heard. I’m disappointed that the community’s voice is not being heard.”

The district has not conducted its once-annual survey since 2012, and those results were deemed inconclusive because of a lower-than-desired response rate, according to DCSD.

Some parents said then the district was ignoring the results because they didn’t like responses critical of the voucher — or Choice Scholarship — program and the direction the district was headed in its efforts to reform education.

During a June 2014 board of education meeting, Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen said staff would research costs and options for a third-party professional survey and return to the board with recommendations by early fall.

“I think it’s a great time to go out and gather feedback,” Fagen said then, noting DCSD was about to release an updated version of its strategic plan.

Audience members applauded the news.

During a Dec. 16 meeting at Buffalo Ridge Elementary, another parent repeated the survey request to district leaders there to talk about the principal’s resignation.

“I’d like to encourage the district to put into place a routine, anonymous survey,” said Kate Calhoon, adding teachers need “a layer of anonymity to speak freely.”

“We as parents have been asking for that … and have gotten pretty much dismissed,” she said. “That’s been pretty frustrating.”

DCSD assistant superintendent of elementary education Ted Knight said the state’s biannual teacher survey provides valuable information. The Colorado Department of Education will conduct the Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning survey in February and March 2015.

“We get the data at the end, so it is completely anonymous,” he said.

Crowley said the TELL survey is not detailed enough.

“It doesn’t have any questions on it that are specific to upper administration of the school district, or the direction of the school district, or teachers’ opinions of the leadership at the district level,” she said. “It’s only at the individual school level. It’s not a fully comprehensive survey.”

Larsen said any future survey would be different from those DCSD did previously, which means the process is more time-consuming.

“We’ll be looking for information that can help us either continue what we’re doing, or look at what needs to be modified or communicated better so the public, people in the schools and the community at large can all feel engaged and part of this,” he said. “We’re taking our time and trying to do it really well.”

“I think it’s going to be very important to do a very thoughtful process to get a survey conducted that gives us that kind of comprehensive feedback. That’s why (we’re taking) the measured care and true deliberation.”


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It's misleading that DCSD claims the 2012 survey results were deemed inconclusive due to a "less than desired response rate". The response rate was higher than in previous years' surveys considered valid and accepted by the district, and higher than the goal rate stated by the company hired to conduct the survey. Details can be found at, as well as a graph showing the sharp decline in parents and employees who think the district is headed in a positive direction (just 38% and 14% in 2012, and things have only gone downhill since then).

After being presented with this information regarding response rates, the school board changed its tune and claimed it wasn't actually the response rate that caused them to ignore the survey results, but that it wasn't conducted scientifically, and that respondents could have taken the survey twice. At that time, they promised that a new, scientific survey would be done in the fall of 2012. But it wasn't. Parents have been asking for a parent survey ever since.

I'm the parent of two children that were in the district in 2012 (one now in Littleton due to the school board). I took the survey. Once. My responses were ignored, and I don't believe for a second it was due to response rate or scientificity or because they've spent the last 2.5 years trying to come up with a better way. The school board is stalling and coming up with excuses. The district doesn't want to conduct a survey, because they already know exactly what parents and employees think, and they don't want anyone else to find out.

| Monday, December 29, 2014

It's not surprising that the DCSD Board of Education continues to stonewall on a community survey in spite of lip service since 2013 to the contrary. According to the Strong Schools Coalition (, every annual survey since 2009 - when the pro-reform board first came into power - has indicated a steady drop in parent confidence that the district is headed in the right direction: from a high of just over 70% of respondents expressing confidence in 2009 to only 38% in 2012, the last year a survey was done.

So I suppose it's understandable from the BOE point of view that they would prefer to avoid situations that might expose further erosion of confidence in their agenda. Their disavowal of 2012 survey results even though the survey administrator advised them it was perfectly valid, suggests as much.

More generally, running from any sort of meaningful community engagement process – which should include, but not be limited to, surveys of public opinion - seems just to be part of their M.O.. Case in point: their March 25 resolution to further restrict open public comment during board meetings to only five minutes. For a democratically elected school board that constantly extols itself as "bold" and "courageous" this strikes me as, well, not so courageous.

There is, however, one form of "engagement" with the community from which the board will not be able to run: the de jure survey of public opinion known as an election. Whether they like it or not, it will next be administered in 2015 when three of the seven board seats will be on the line. They would do well to keep that in mind as they consider any further efforts to insulate themselves from the will of the people.

Friday, January 9, 2015