How satisfied are you? D97 asks parents in new survey

District tabulating results of 40-question survey

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By TERRY DEAN

More than 2,000 Oak Park families with children in District 97 schools received a school satisfaction questionnaire last month, the largest and most extensive survey in the district to date, school officials estimate.

The five-page survey is the latest in a string of initiatives instituted by District 97 Superintendent Constance Collins since she took over as the district's leader last summer.

"With a change in leadership, it's a good time to evaluate how we're doing business, where we are and were want to be in the future," said District 97 Public Information Officer Gail Crantz. Collins was unavailable for comment.

The surveys were sent to parents, asking them about a range of school issues, such as school performance, discipline and communication between school officials and the community. Parents with children in grades three through eight were targeted. Surveys were due back last week. Officials are still tabulating the results, but estimate that the return rate was an improvement over a survey distributed to parents last year concerning the performance of district principals.

Surveys were sent last month to parents of the district's middle and elementary schools - Gwendolyn Brooks and Percy Julian Middle Schools, and Beye, Hatch, Holmes, Irving, Whittier, Longfellow, Lincoln and Mann elementary schools. The district has an enrollment of nearly 5,000 students.

An extensive survey was done at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School last school year, which asked parents specifically about discipline and leadership, and how well school officials communicate with parents. That survey became the basis for a district-wide effort, district officials said. The school board unanimously approved this new parental survey in March of this year.

"This is the biggest effort of this kind," said District 97 school board President Carolyn Newberry Schwartz. "This is assessing the leadership in our schools in order to get a better understanding of how students and parents identify with the school."

Parents were asked such questions as are their concerns given proper attention by the school's principal, and if they were aware of their school's discipline polices and procedures, among other questions. Parents were asked to rate their responses from "strongly agreeing" to "strongly disagreeing." Other questions asked if bullying was a problem at the school and about the school's overall safety. Forty questions in all were included.

Officials plan to distribute another parental survey in spring 2006. The results from both fall and spring surveys will be compared to rate parent's responses. Newberry Schwartz said the responses will help administrators assess long-term goals and strategies to improve how the schools respond to parents' needs and expectations. The results of the parental survey will be made public.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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