Herald and Journal, Dec. 27, 1999

HLWW school board pleased with survey response

By Andrea Vargo

Joe Campbell, co-chair of the task force assigned to determine the need for a new school for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District, read the summary of a recent survey sent out to district residents to the school board last Monday.

He pointed out some of what he considered to be interesting statistics last Monday.

The 15 to 20 percent response from a recent survey sent out by the Long Range Facilities Task Force to District 2687 residents is considered to be very good, said consultant Linda Schroeder.

A majority of respondents, 71 percent, said they understand the need for a new high school, and the same number believe that a new high school could enhance the district's competitiveness with surrounding districts.

Campbell said 70 percent think choosing a new name for the school district would be worth considering.

Predominately positive responses were given throughout the survey questions, said Campbell.

The survey answers were full of praise for the drama, music, athletic, and ag/FFA departments, he said.

Neither the location of a new school, nor the possible tax impact seemed to be much of a problem for most respondents, as the need for a new school was rated as a higher priority.

The individual response portion of the survey was too diverse and difficult to quantify and was therefore unusable in any statistical analysis, said Campbell.

It was expected that there would be some "hand grenades" in the individual responses, but that didn't happen.

There was no pattern to anything anyone had to say about the district, he said.

If consistent problems had come up with curriculum or teachers, etc., the board would find some way to focus on shortcomings for the district. Those things didn't materialize, said Campbell.

There are a lot of positive feelings about this school district, Campbell added.

Now, he said, the task force will continue to investigate sites and should have a recommendation(s) for the school board by the January 18 meeting.


Survey results summary

By Linda Schroeder
Schroeder of Schroeder Communications and Program Management Services, has been hired by the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School district to provide research data and communications between the task force and residents.

Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) Site Task force co-chair Joe Campbell presented a summary of the task force questionnaire responses at the HLWW School Board meeting last Monday.

The task force also includes co-chair Jack Littfin and members Jim Fowler, Deb Gatz, Sean Groos, Randy Heuer, Riley Hoheisel, Catherine Jackson, Janet Perry, Jim Raymond and Gerry Smith.

Following is the task force report which was presented to the board:

Who responded

More than 950 district residents, representing more than 680 households, responded to the task force questionnaire sent out this fall. Besides responding to the check-mark questions, two-thirds of those responding (more than 630) took the time to respond to optional questions, explain answers to check-marked questions, or provide additional comments at the end of the questionnaire.

District-wide, 71 percent of respondents were parents or grandparents, with the remaining 29 percent being non-parents.

Of those respondents with children (or grandchildren) attending school, 56 percent of them attend HLWW Schools, 10 percent attend St. James, 16 percent attend Holy Trinity, 2 percent are home-schooled, and 16 percent attend another public school district (either through open-enrollment or because grandchildren of respondents live in another school district).

Respondents ranged in age from 18 years to more than 60 years. A number of individuals volunteered that they were between 80 and 90 years old; 5 percent did not indicate their age.

Fifty-five percent of respondents were between ages 18 and 49; 15 percent between ages 50 and 59; and 25 percent were age 60 and above.

Rating programs

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65 percent) rated school district programs, staff and reputation as excellent, very good, or good. Another 22 percent rated them as adequate, bringing the overall "okay or better" rating to 87 percent. A total of 6 percent of respondents labeled the district as "poor," with 7 percent not answering this question.

When asked to rate 10 specific aspects of our district, our performing arts programs received the highest ratings, with elementary teachers and special interest programs also receiving high ratings.

Good ratings were earned by curriculum and academic opportunities, athletic programs, secondary teachers, administration, special education programs and communication with the public.

School facilities earned the lowest marks of all 10 categories.

District pride

About one-half (49 percent) of those who responded indicated that they were proud to be part of the school district, with 12 percent indicating "no" to this question.

As might be expected with 40 percent of respondents being age 50 and above (and likely not having any direct affiliation with the district anymore), 31percent had "no opinion" and 10 percent did not answer this question.

Comparable programs

The majority of respondents (78 percent) believe that providing student programs and opportunities comparable to those of surrounding districts is either "extremely important" or "very important."

In answer to the related question, 48 percent of respondents indicated that HLWW programs and opportunities are "better than" or "similar to" those of surrounding districts.

Comparable facilities

The majority of respondents (63 percent) also believe that providing facilities comparable to those of surrounding districts is either "extremely important" or "very important."

When asked about how district facilities actually do compare, 2 percent of respondents indicated that HLWW facilities are "better than" those of surrounding districts, 33 percent indicated that they were "similar," and 47 percent indicated that they were "not as good as" those of surrounding districts.

New high school

The majority of respondents (71percent) believe that a new high school could enhance our competitiveness with surrounding districts that have new high school facilities. An even higher percentage (74 percent) believe that a new high school could improve the long-term viability of the HLWW District.

The majority of those who responded (71percent) indicated that they understood the need for a new high school. A similar percentage (72 percent) indicated that they would "definitely" or "maybe" support building a new high school (without considering tax impact or school location as factors for now).

Location

Many respondents agreed that they were "open to considering another location besides near where they lived," and many also agreed that they would "give serious consideration to any location that the task force recommends."

(Note that each site was presented as a separate question and respondents were asked to respond separately to the likelihood of their support for each of the four sites, thus percentages do not add up to 100 percent.)

Howard Lake respondents indicated the likelihood of support being "excellent, pretty good or maybe" for the following sites: in or near Howard Lake, 84 percent; somewhere out in the country, 60 percent; in or near Waverly, 41 percent; and in or near Winsted, 29 percent.

Waverly respondents indicated the likelihood of support being "excellent, pretty good or maybe" for the following sites: in or near Howard Lake, 66 percent; somewhere out in the country, 66 percent; in or near Waverly, 49 percent; and in or near Winsted, 22 percent.

Winsted respondents indicated the likelihood of support being "excellent, pretty good or maybe" for the following sites: in or near Winsted, 73 percent; somewhere out in the country, 62 percent; in or near Howard Lake, 45 percent; and in or near Waverly, 15 percent.

Respondents not identifying themselves by town indicated the likelihood of support being "excellent, pretty good or maybe" for the following sites: in or near Howard Lake, 41 percent; somewhere out in the country, 36 percent; in or near Waverly, 23 percent; and in or near Winsted, 21 percent.

Respondents who open-enroll their children to other public school districts indicated the likelihood of support being "excellent, pretty good or maybe" for the following sites: somewhere out in the country, 47 percent; in or near Howard Lake, 46 percent; in or near Winsted, 35 percent; and in or near Waverly, 30 percent.

Voting factors

When the time comes to vote on a school referendum, more respondents will consider "the need for a new school" as the primary factor in their decision, rather than "impact on taxes" or "location of school."

Open enrollment response

Of the 53 respondents who open-enroll their children out of HLWW (representing about 17 percent of total open enrollees), reasons for open-enrolling included everything from "better overall reputation" to "better teachers and academic choices" to "recommendations of others" to "closer to home or convenient to daycare."

Of those who responded, more than half (51percent) indicated that a new high school would "definitely not" encourage them to return to HLWW. With a new high school, 38 percent indicated that they would "maybe" return, and 8 percent indicated that they would "absolutely" return to HLWW.

Information sources

The vast majority (79 percent) indicated that they depended on newspapers, while 58 percent also read written information from the school district. Talking with friends, relatives, school staff and administration were other primary sources identified by 20-31 percent of respondents.

A new name

The majority of respondents (70 percent) showed interest in considering a new name for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted District. Respondents identified this proposal as a "great idea" (19 percent), a "good idea" (17 percent), or an idea "worth considering" (34 percent). The remaining respondents considered it to be a "bad idea" (19 percent) or did not respond.

Task force updates

The majority of respondents (80 percent) considered the task force information updates to be either "definitely" or "sort of" helpful in understanding the district's facilities issues. Remaining respondents indicated "not sure" (7 percent) or "no" (3 percent), or they did not answer.

Valuable input

According to Campbell, "We appreciate the responses of the more than 950 district residents who took the time to respond. Along with many other considerations and sources of information gathered by the task force during many months of study, this direct resident feedback will help us finalize a site recommendation for the HLWW School Board."

Co-chair Littfin added, "Responses to the questionnaire won't make the decision for us. This questionnaire wasn't a straw poll to select a site. It was a way for us to find out what people are thinking about the need for a new school, as well as the location of a new high school. And it will help us identify a recommendation that we hope will be seen as reasonable and acceptable to everyone."

Next steps

The task force plans to continue its work in January, with the goal of presenting a recommendation to the board at its January meeting.

"We've directed our architect to gather additional site information," said Campbell, "and then we'll be ready for our final phase of discussions before making a recommendation. It may be tough to do by Jan. 18, but we're going to try."


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