KENT: The Kent City Schools Board of Education began 2013 with its eyes fixed firmly on the future.
At its first meeting of the New Year, the board heard a lengthy presentation on the results of the district's community survey, conducted in conjunction with researchers from Kent State University. The results of the study will serve as a blueprint for the district's strategic planning process, which will begin in earnest with focus groups and additional research at the end of January.
KSU researcher Pam Freeman, a Kent City Schools alumna and a parent of both current and former district students, led the survey and presented her findings to the board. Freeman, of the KSU Research and Evaluation Bureau, College and Graduate School of Education and Department of Health and Human Services, explained both how the survey was carried out and what its results said about the district.
The survey, which had its initial stages in 2010, focused on the community's perception and awareness of school-related issues. Survey forms were mailed out to 2,000 registered voters, a change from the 2010 survey, which was conducted by phone.
In assessing the community's satisfaction with the district's overall performance, the survey showed that 92 percent of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied. However, Freeman noted that many respondents were unaware of the district's cost-saving measures, a fact board member Ryan Ferrara noted should be a point of emphasis as the district makes its push to raise support for the 8.9-mill operating levy that will appear on the ballot in May.
"That is something I think we need to get out there and make people aware of," Ferrara said.
Also in the survey, respondents rated the district with a B+ grade, the same rating given to its overall student safety performance.
Also of note were the priorities for facilities improvements as funds merit, something that is at the heart of the upcoming levy. Forty-nine percent of respondents cited the need for parking and new reading intervention rooms at Holden Elementary School as the top priority. Next up, 24 percent or responders said new classrooms to address space limitations at the high school were necessary. Finally, 23 percent of participants called for the renovation or replacement of Franklin Elementary, which turned 90 years old last year.
Currently, the reading intervention rooms at Holden are in trailers that do not have restrooms, requiring teachers and aides to lead regular trips to restrooms in the building.
Board members discussed ways of better communicating district needs and developments to the community in light of the fact that the district's monthly newsletter was cited as a primary source of school information by just 42 percent of survey respondents.
The board also approved president Brian Boykin to the same post for the new calendar year and vice president Rebekah Wright Kulis will remain in the same post. Boykin was unable to attend because he was at home ill, according to superintendent Dr. Joseph Giancola.
Holden Elementary principal Julie Troman, whose building hosted the meeting, presented special recognition awards to both the Kent Environmental Council and volunteer Rae Metz.
The council has provided both financial and advisory assistance to Holden Elementary's gardening project for students and Metz volunteered on a weekly basis for eight weeks helping first grade students in the classroom of teacher Kim Metz, his daughter-in-law, when her students had a chance to spend time in the building's AT&T classroom for technology.
Giancola took time to recognize the board as part of Ohio School Board recognition month, noting that "the time spent at meetings represents a small fraction of the commitment" a board member must make to be fully educated to vote on issues and make decisions.
"For every two hours here, it truly does take four hours of preparation and the meeting packets our board members receive are extensive," Giancola said.
The board also accepted the resignation of Walls Elementary first-grade teacher Deb Walton, effective July 1.