Tuesday, September 01, 2015

R-8 Board approves extensive plan to determine what Joplin wants

During a special meeting this evening, Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder told the Joplin R-8 Board of Education, he has talked with teachers in all areas of the school district and has determined "there is a strong sense of lack of trust" in the system.

"I am finding we're very dysfunctional as a system." That dysfunction, Ridder said, did not begin with his predecessor but dates back two decades, "though sometimes, it was functioning well."

Ridder said, "It's important that we allow the community to give us feedback, to give us what they want for their kids."

Board members heard a presentation from Marc Maness of Opinion Research Specialists in Springfield, who has worked with Ridder in Springfield and Mehlville, and told how his firm would collect the information the board needs to devise a strategic plan for the district.

Surveys are nothing new for this school district. They were conducted during the C. J. Huff Administration, but often the results were already determined and the questions were geared toward those results.

That kind of "input" is not what Maness outlined for the board.

His three-phase plan begins with extensive one-on-one interviews, lasting about an hour and a half each with teachers and staff, students, parents, and community members, with a secondary group, including board members, administrative staff, and teacher representatives also being interviewed.

Board member Gary Nodler asked about others who have a major impact on education, including DESE and the federal government and how this survey would deal with them.

Ridder said, "I am not that concerned about that. We need to find out what Joplin wants." At that point, he added, school officials will be able to do a better job of explaining the state and federal requirements to the public.

Focus groups will be held during the second phase, and the ones who were interviewed during the first phase will be consulted again.

Feedback will come from additional channels as needed, Maness said.

The final phase features the development of surveys based on the information that has been received during the initial phases. A random phone survey will be used, as well as an on-line survey of parents and staff.

After the surveys are completed, Maness indicated, the board will be able to develop targets for the strategic plan, which will be developed by December 1.

"You won't believe how easy it is to be a board member when you know what the public wants," Ridder said. "We have a community that will respond to a sharp focus."

The board approved the $55,000 plan, which will not be footed by the taxpayers, though Ridder gave the board that option. Ridder said he had talked with Brian Fogle of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, which had expressed an interest in funding the study. A mention was also made of the Joplin R-8 Foundation during board discussion.

Ridder said he would have the financing  information on the funding for the board at its regular meeting Tuesday, September 22.

"I''ll find ways to pay for this," Ridder said.

Board member Ron Gatz said, "We can't afford not to."


Anonymous said...

I'm really starting to like this guy.

Anonymous said...

Have to ask...Is he bringing his buddy in for $55,000. No RFP?..No bid contract....I do not care who pays...that is not the issue...$55,000 is the beginning...

Anonymous said...

7:06 PM: I'm not at all sure about that.

Obviously, a lot of this is bogus, if Ridder is half the man we think he is, he already knows a lot of what he needs to do, for example, who he needs to fire.

But given that he's working against the power structure of Joplin, the very people who were entirely happy with the Huff regime, he needs to get his ducks in a row. He might want some "formal" justification for why the services of top members of the administration are not needed, the survey might just happen to say "X is under control, and we need to focus on Y". Or generate public comment on why certain principals need to go. I'd hope he wants to make discipline a major focus, having parents complain that their children can't learn because disruptive students get rewarded with candy would be useful.

There's also the maxim "First time is happenstance, second time is coincidence, third time is enemy action" which I first read in a James Bond novel. I don't think we're yet at the 2nd stage where we're warranted in worrying.