Tuesday, September 01, 2015
R-8 Board approves extensive plan to determine what Joplin wants
"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."