Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 9, 2017
Survey responses form direction for CSD 13
by Monique Labbe
Now that a community-wide survey asking for feedback regarding the present and future state of the Deer Isle-Stonington schools has concluded, the strategic planning process moved into the next stage with a community focus group on November 2.
The focus group consisted of about 20 parents, teachers, school board members and community members. Split into three sub groups, the participants combed through the raw responses collected from over 260 surveys returned.
The group was tasked with prioritizing data, choosing what they deemed the most important areas of focus from each of the survey questions.
When asked what was working well, the group noted that among the most common responses was strong leadership at the schools, as well as programs, such as the Skippers and Pathways programs.
The negatives expressed in the survey, included student behavior, bullying, and a lack of integration of technology into every day instruction. While education programs were noted as positives in the survey, it was also an area of concern for some responders, who said there are insufficiencies in math, literacy, foreign languages and other fields of study.
Focus group participants also discussed their greatest hopes and fears for the future of the schools. Each sub group agreed that having pride in the school and giving the community a positive image of the schools is an important step in the right direction. Another hope was to have a safe, respectful school environment that would support diverse learning and a culture of excellence for students and staff.
The major fear of the group and survey participants was that the schools would close in the future, and island students would need to go elsewhere. Lack of funding was also raised as a concern that would have a negative impact on learning, as taxpayers would not continue to support the school, programs and staff would be cut, and the students would not be prepared for the future. Drops in future enrollment numbers and students feeling unsafe were also areas of concern that were raised.
After going through the questions individually, the focus group members were asked to narrow their direction even more, choosing three main areas of focus for the future vision statement of the school district. After discussing the matter, the three chosen ideas were a safe, positive, respectful school environment and image, more community involvement, and engaging, diverse learning and a strong work ethic.
The information gleaned from the focus group will be used to set the tone and direction for the school district’s vision statement. Work on that vision statement will begin in December under the consultation of Mary Jane McCalmon, who has been hired by the district to assist in the work.