Parent survey: generally positive, room for improvement

  • ARRSD Superintendent Darcy Fernandes Athol Daily News/File

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 6/21/2019 9:50:27 PM
Modified: 6/21/2019 9:50:15 PM

ATHOL – Results of a survey of parents with children in the Athol Royalston Regional School District were released at the recent school committee meeting. Overall, responses were positive, but some respondents did indicate improvements could be made in communications and in the effort to combat bullying. A total of 150 parents took the survey.

“We wanted to make sure we were getting a sense of what parents’ experiences were like across the schools in our district,” said Superintendent Darcy Fernandes. “So, together with the Public Relations Subcommittee of the school committee, we sat down and looked at a bunch of parent surveys and came up with five questions we thought were appropriate. We called and asked for feedback only over the telephone. Every eighth parent was called; if they didn’t answer we went on to the next.”

“The purpose of this survey was not to compare our schools,” said Fernandes, “the point was to get an overview of what’s happening in our district.”

Asked if they felt they were regularly informed of how their child was doing in their respective school, just under three-quarters – 72.5 percent – responded in the affirmative, while nearly a quarter responded “no.” Several parents commented that updates only come when progress reports or report cards are issued, while other said they only receive information when there is something negative to report.

More than 90 percent of respondents said they had been informed about the kind of behavior that is expected from their children in the classroom, but a number of parents said this information is only communicated at the start of the school year. A handful did say the issue is simply one of common sense.

“One of the questions is, would it be beneficial to communicate these expectations multiple times a year,” added Fernandes.

More than nine in 10 parents also said they are encouraged to call and talk to their children’s teachers. A mere five percent said this was not the case. Several said they appreciated the use of email to connect with teachers.

When asked if they had suggestions on how the district might improve itself, nearly two-thirds said “no.” Of those who did offer suggestions, a number said more attention needed to be given to anti-bullying efforts, while others said there needed to be better communication regarding events taking place in the district.

Regarding the issue of bullying, Fernandes said, “The district will need to explore how to work with students more frequently around this issue. We do not have a plan, yet. This survey is fresh off the computer, but it’s one of the things we definitely want to be working on.”

The superintendent also said, “The district will work with principals on creating a plan to inform parents more frequently about their students, especially calls and emails that discuss positive things that are happening with their child. It felt like what parents were getting was more of the negative than the positive.”

The bullying issue struck a chord with committee member Charles Pretti.

“I just don’t know if I can get across to faculty and the administration in particular,” he said, “I think we a need a culture in the schools where everyone has a strong awareness that this is not going to happen, and something’s going to happen if it does happen. This could be literally eradicated. I really would like to see our administrators work really, really hard in that area. I know it’s going to happen in every school district, let’s face it, but I think we could do better.”

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