By Laura Mutton
President, Strong School Coalition
Published 1/8/2015, Highlands Ranch Herald
Open this paper on any given week and chances are you will see evidence of turmoil within the Douglas County School District. Our community is deeply divided when it comes to the direction and future of education in Douglas County. Reinstating parent, teacher and community surveys is the first step toward healing this divide and restoring trust in the school district.
As elected officials, the board of education has the right to implement their reform initiatives in our schools, but they don’t have the right to skirt accountability, especially when it comes to the parents and students they serve. It’s been almost five years since the district accepted the results of a parent survey, despite the numerous requests by parents to reinstate annual district surveys. Surveying and then partnering with parents to understand and acknowledge their concerns will help move our district forward in a positive direction.
Recently, Ted Knight, DCSD’s assistant superintendent of elementary education, stated that “It is becoming tougher and tougher to find good principals.” This statement is alarming because Douglas County used to be a destination district for principals and teachers. While the state TELL survey does measure many building level factors, and it has shown that there is a valid concern with the district’s evaluation system, it does not clearly measure employee morale. Reinstating employee surveys will help the district identify what factors need to be addressed in order to rebuild the positive culture and climate it was once known for.
Members of the community who do not have children attending Douglas County schools comprise 70 percent of the county’s population. Building partnerships with our community starts with understanding the general perception of our district and its schools.
Unfortunately, Mr. Larsen’s recent statement in regards to a survey timeline, “We are continuing to examine the right way to proceed,” appears to be yet another attempt to stall surveys. Reinstating surveys before the end of this school year, asking the tough questions to understand what is working and not working, acknowledging the results and then committing to address them is the key to restoring trust, healing our community and rebuilding a positive climate and culture in our school district.