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Community Input Sought as Stillwater School Board Mulls Levy Questions in November

Stillwater Area School Board members will be seeking input from the community as they begin to consider adding a funding request to the ballot this November. Would you support a levy to help fund Stillwater schools?

Stillwater Area School Board members will be seeking input from the community as they begin to consider adding a funding request to the ballot this November.

A community survey will be conducted in February to measure the attitudes and opinions of community members regarding a possible levy election this fall.

A random sample of 500 community members will be interviewed by phone as part of the survey. Results from the survey will be shared with the board in late March as they determine what to place on the ballot.

The district’s existing levy, which provides $11 million annually, will expire at the end of next school year.

Susan January 28, 2013 at 11:18 PM
And how much will THIS survey cost? It seems that everyone is doing surveys lately at an absolutely outrageous cost to taxpayers. Washington County $25,000 posted on Patch last week. Stillwater $15,000 posted on Patch a few months back. Now this... How about if our elected officials (including the school board) start holding monthly town hall meetings instead? Not the structured forum like our council meetings where the public is only allowed to speak for five minutes, but real community gatherings where the tax payers can give their opinions and interact with their elected representatives. This will also save money on these ridiculous surveys!!
Randy Marsh January 29, 2013 at 01:46 AM
The district would be better off putting a survey on their website and then offering $10 to each person (i.e., eligible voter) who fills one out.
Shawn Hogendorf January 29, 2013 at 01:48 AM
I asked that question today Susan, but the district's spokesperson was in meetings. I can update you with a cost of the survey and who will be conducting it as soon as I hear back.
Randy Marsh January 29, 2013 at 02:00 AM
How about finding out what the average salary is for full-time teachers in Stillwater? I do know in this area Stillwater is definitely above average.
Susan January 29, 2013 at 02:01 AM
Thanks, Shawn, but I'm sure it probably falls in line with the others. Did you read the comments in the Washington County thread Friday? I couldn't believe it when Kris wrote that Woodbury pays $50,000 to find out what a few hundred of their citizens are thinking twice a year. Someone please explain why we must pay to have our elected officials informed on what a a small percentage of the city/school district/county is thinking. Shouldn't it be part of their job to listen to the public? To get out and actually talk with the people vs. getting a tiny sampling by way of an expensive third party?
Randy Marsh January 29, 2013 at 02:14 AM
If you remember back to the last survey the school district paid to have done they simply ignored all of the findings anyway and the result was a three strikes and your out defeat at the ballot box. Even worse than wasting money for information that can be gleaned in other ways is ignoring the information that you paid to receive in the first place.
Sirid Kellermann January 29, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Town hall meetings are a great idea and should be part of a larger strategy to garner feedback and inform the public. However, many taxpayers (ie, people who hold sway over whether a levy will pass or not) are homebound or have schedules that prevent them from attending such meetings, and surveys make sense. (Also, if you question the number of people surveyed - that is, the sample size - seems to0 small, call a statistician to see if your hunch is correct). It seems to me that the issue is not the survey, but that many people feel that survey results haven't been taken into consideration in the past and won't again this time. As someone who has participated for the past 4-5 months in the school district's strategic planning initiative (both on the planning team and one of ten action teams), I can only speak for the present and I can say that I see a genuine good-faith effort by the superintendent and the school board to make real changes in our school system so that it best serves our kids and our community. A large cadre of thoughtful and analytical community members spent a LOT of time researching how to make our schools an outstanding place to learn, and the levy will help execute those plans. I would ask my fellow Stillwater residents to use your past experience to be critical, ask questions, and think carefully about the answers you get, but do not carry forward any bitterness, apathy, etc.
Susan January 29, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Thank you for your thoughtful comment. As many here know, I have a father who is a quadriplegic and rarely leaves his home. When he feels strongly about an issue, he contacts his local representatives via email or phone and they are always willing to discuss issues with him personally. Of-course that's not realistic for the number of people that are affected by our school district decisions, but community meetings would allow elected officials to have more real contact with a larger portion of the public than a survey of a several hundred. How are those not contacted supposed to express their ideas? I have to believe that it would be very time consuming to talk to each individual by phone and/or email.
Randy Marsh January 29, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Sirid, do you feel the district is getting $15,000-$25,000 worth of bang for their buck with yet another survey? It seems like that would buy a lot of yard signs and glossy brochures.
Sirid Kellermann January 29, 2013 at 06:35 PM
Rick, as with your comments on the "white trash" shooter story, I'm not sure I understand this comment. Who's advocating yard signs and brochures? I'm saying that we need a balance of dialogue (town hall meetings etc.) and reasonably economical options to obtain feedback from the community (surveys). Yard signs and brochures don't provide either dialogue or feedback. If you have a better idea for how to engage with the district administration, we definitely need to bring it forward to them.
Randy Marsh January 30, 2013 at 01:16 AM
Not sure if you're referring to me, Sirid, but I don't use racially charged terms like "white trash", but then maybe in your circles it's considered appropriate. I was suggesting the district could spend the money on signs and brochures to try to get yes votes rather than perpetuating this dog and pony show as if it will actually make a difference in what the school board ends up requesting next fall. Public feedback shouldn't require a survey, especially when the board members showed just two years ago how much that don't value that information to begin with.
Jo Gascoigne February 05, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Are we going to see the results of the committees regarding what they are recommending before these sessions? Otherwise we are all responding from our own point of view which may result in no action on what we feel is important vs what the groups that have studied the budget are recommending. Seems the general public is in the dark about the budget given the kinds of questions that are popping up on this website...for example I would like to know how much money is used for teacher personal leave and sick leave days. How many are used each year. Personal leave days interrupt student instruction as does sick leave days. What does the district allow teachers to use sick leave days for.?? Could some of those days be pared down in much of the preventitive health care issues were taken care of on the time off during the course of the year. Shouldn't they be more restricted to more emergency type health issues? Just a thought. The cost is great when you are paying for the time off and the sub let alone the instruction issues. Do all administrators work a 12 month year when we no longer have a summer school if yes why? Just some issues that perhaps would save some money. jo

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