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Survey asks opinion of schools

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An anonymous survey is being used to gauge the perception of area schools.

"The school climate survey is a tool that we are using to see what the teachers, students, parents and support staff think about the schools," Supt. Dan Schroeder told The Brazil Times.

The survey is returned by Friday, to the respected child's school.

"We want to remind everyone that they have them and they are important," Schroeder said.

Steve Gruenert, a professor at Indiana State University helped create the survey. Some of the questions asked pertained to the environment of the school and geared toward the students overall perception.

"In no way are parents, teachers or support staff suppose to put their name or identification number of any kind," Schroeder said. "If a student fill-out the survey, we only ask what grade they are in, not their names. We want this to be as anonymous as possible, with the most benefit."

Participants of the survey are asked to fill in specific dots in the student identification number section to correlate with their role in the school, administrator, teacher, support staff or parent.

Participants are then asked to respond to each of the questions in pencil, regarding how often the event occurs, never, sometimes, often and always.

The administration will then use the responses to the survey to implement the changes that are needed.

"We plan to use the survey and the responses given to see what changes need to be made," Schroeder said. "Having the anonymous results from the people are important to us, so we wanted to remind everyone that the deadline is soon."

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Wonderful idea ~ I applaud Clay Community for asking our opinions ~

-- Posted by karebabe on Tue, Dec 2, 2008, at 7:54 PM

I agree, but just asking our opinions doesn't mean they will listen to them. Not trying to sound negative but after dealing with the administration at the middle school, they don't seem very eager to listen to the parents. I hope they take to heart the survey and possibly implement some changes.

-- Posted by Localguy1972 on Tue, Dec 2, 2008, at 8:59 PM

The problem with the survey though is that it is an obscan type and you can only reply with one word answers provided. While it may provide general information, it does not ask or supply for replies relating to specific problems unless one lumps all the staff together or answer "sometimes" to all the questions.

There are wonderful staff in the corporation at all levels but there are a few who have not been doing their jobs for years now. Allowing this to continue for so long is a major problem IMHO. Building administrators need the support to be able to take the time to observe and document the deficits so they can be corrected within a couple of years through improvement plans and maybe eventually a dismissal here and there when indicated. Then if building supervision doesn't do it, their documentation from higher level needs to be done.

Not doing this more diligently over many years has caused not only a poor image of the corporation in eyes of some of the community but in some diligent staff members having to take up the slack for those who don't; which doesn't help moral within the corporation work force as well as it does not reward the good staff for it gives them more work.

I have lived in Clay County for 13 years now and the problems my kids have had in the various schools have mostly been with staff who have been repeat "offenders" year after year along with a few school administrators who were not doing their jobs either in letting it continue without documentation. Admittedly the corporation has improved in some areas of building administration in the more recent years but now the issue of documentation is much greater as it has to contradict the lack of documentation for so long.

Now so some don't start accusing me of being negative towards all the good teachers, I refer you back to my sentence about the wonderful staff here. It's only a few deficient staff members, but like the bad apple in the barrel they do hurt the entire school with their ripple effect, whether causing more work for the other staff, or a less than standard level of education and treatment for those students who have to deal with their substandard performance. It can hurt the student's drive to learn or at very least, make them ill prepared for future coursework.

I encourage ALL to obtain the necessary email addresses from the corporation's web site and open up conversations and ask questions of the corporation staff at all levels. Be frank but respectful, but give them your thoughts on a continuing basis throughout your child's school career so they are aware of the experiences, both good and bad, of the students and parents. Then they wouldn't have to spend money on these surveys, but spend the money on the educational aspects of the students instead of perception. This survey is a valiant effort but I do not think it replaces frank, open discussion on the actual long standing problems.

New construction, building repairs, and safety safeguards are fine and needed, but until we get a handle on the higher importance of striving for more effective teaching time between teacher and student, we will not make any great strides in improving academic levels of our student body. Again we have made a few improvements in this area but it is going to take more time and solid backing from the top to make this investment for the corporation's future improvement. We can never stop striving to do better for we will never know just how it will effect a student's future success or failure.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Wed, Dec 3, 2008, at 7:17 AM

I agree, Jenny, but we can hope that this is the first step in resolving some issues in the schools. Maybe there will be another survey or similiar format on the agenda after these surveys are tallied ~

-- Posted by karebabe on Wed, Dec 3, 2008, at 8:18 AM

Jenny, I must say that is one of the best articulated statements I have seen on here in a while. I agree whole heartedly.

I have gotten emails from some of my child's teachers, and I thank them every time for the interaction and care they give. I think there are more good than bad teachers in the system, but I also believe it is the responsibility of the parent to take a proactive stance in their child's education. I hate to say, have not always done that but I think it is a step forward that the school corporation wants any feed back at all.

-- Posted by RickS on Wed, Dec 3, 2008, at 9:55 AM

I think that is a good idea to ask for the opinions of the students, parents, teachers, and support staff about the schools. That gives us an idea of the problems and some possible solutions; however, the next step should be to also look outside of the corporation's domain at other schools, through comparative research, for problems and solutions that are not shown through local opinion.

My problem with the survey is not the collection of the data, it is with conflicting instructions. The cover letter stated to "follow the instructions." The form asks for more information than the instructions; however, given Mankind's tendency towards laziness, I must wonder how many of these surveys will be voided by people including too much information. That will skew the results of the survey. It will also waste, at least, $1.83 per unreturned or spoiled survey. That doesn't seem like a lot of money, but every dollar wasted is a dollar we cannot use to further education. When we get the report back, is it going to include the number of surveys sent, the number not returned, and the number that was returned but not counted? Those numbers affect the validity of the conclusions drawn from the data gathered.

I also have a question as to the usefulness of a survey. If a person is not aware of the facts other than by their own experiences, is their opinion worth knowing to someone who has more facts at hand? I would say that most of the students, teachers, parents, and support staff have a lot of knowledge of our schools, but very little knowledge about other schools to use as a basis for comparison on which to form an opinion about our schools.

That is probably my major point of contention with our school corporation; it always seems to look only inward for solutions and only rarely looks outward at the rest of the world. Looking inward is like a person who grew up without electricity, central heating, or indoor plumbing. To that person, having those things would not be a necessity while to most of us they are. Our school corporation appears to have the tendencies to ask for local opinion and only disclose facts that support the opinion of the "powers that be". Facts that conflict are not brought up by the school corporation and, if they are brought up by members of the public, they are ignored with or without discussion. We, the people who have discussed various items about our schools on this newspaper's website, blogs and article comments, have went into more depth than the school corporation has ever attempted to or allowed during any public meeting on any subject.

To me, that is not the way to improve our schools, our corporation, or education within them.

Leo L. Southworth

-- Posted by FlyinLion on Wed, Dec 3, 2008, at 11:42 AM


You make excellent points about the many times we as a corporation have had to reinvent the wheel so to speak because some refused to use the information at hand from other academic institutions in the nation or even from within the state that have wasted so much time and money. It brings to mind weighted grades for one example. It had been tried at so many other places and reports of its failure were over whelming but a former school board refused to credit any of the "outsider information" presented in favor of its own desires.

Another example is the promoting from within when a position is vacated without an external search for the best possible candidate. While filling positions internally is easier and less time consuming, it may not only overlook a person better equipped for the position, it always leaves a film of doubt that they "settled" for someone because they already worked for the corporation. I have no problem from promoting from within an organization so long as their qualifications are put up against the best possible candidates from outside as well. I have mentioned this several times to the board over the past years.

The survey only gives a general perception of the human resource management and enforcement of policy but should not dictate policy as the general public does not generally have a background in education. For an example of this I use the 6 vs 7 period day [or trimester system] that has been implemented in all but 2 corporations in Indiana. For many years this has been resisted by a good number of people in the community and by some even now as they do not see the advantage of their children having to earn additional credits than currently. However it only take a look outside county borders to realize that the competition for jobs reaches so much farther than state, or national borders. these kids will be competing for the same job as a graduate in India or china and while some may not WANT to interact with those from other countries, the global economy is making it impossible not to. We need those who realize this in order for those whose parents don't or refuse to acknowledge this to be successful.

I must chuckle a little though as one reporter made the same inference about many voters not knowing enough about what is going on to really make an intelligent choice in this recent election and stating that it would be better if some of them stayed home on election day as their reasons for choosing a candidate didn't make any sense. I guess along with all the other rights we have as Americans we also have the right to make uneducated decisions [lol].

As to the general atmosphere within the schools, I think that as in all organizations there is present an amount of preconception on the part of some of the staff and some of the parents and students both. Grudges seem to hang around generations and individual students so respect is hard to find when the next child has an encounter with the same teacher and at times the reverse is also true. I've heard parents make beligerant remarks about a teacher from a past experience when their child might have had a good relationship with that teacher if they had kept quiet. I have also heard two teachers talking to each other negatively about a child just because he was a member of a certain family. If this was overheard by a parent at school, it was also overheard by other students. In both cases the respect for the teacher and the student is instantly diminished and they are treated as already guilty by association. This sets up the situation for failure as it is in direct conflict with respect and openmindedness. They've already been been found guilty and treated as such before they even commit a "crime". It also places another hurdle in the way of success for both the student and the corporation staff. Again this is not a remark about MOST of the people involved but it does occur and seems to cause a festering that is hard to get rid of.

I consider my family lucky as we have not lived here multiple generations so are ignorant of the "history" and much of the feudalism going on under the surface of local society but we are aware enough to know it exists by the comments that are said just loud enough for others to hear without being accused of saying it directly to the person they are talking about. Again want to make it clear that these are isolated incidences but they due occur and they can be poisonous to the reputation of a teacher as well as a student if repeated and paid attention to.

As RickS said we need to be advocates for our children. We also need to make sure that we aren't bringing in scars from old wounds from our experiences in the corporation when it really has nothing to do with the child or maybe even that teacher.

Same on staff side. Yes there are disruptive students who are sent to school without any social skills or teaching of respect for fellow human beings but a staff member can't start out treating a student like he is one of those who is going to cause trouble just because of his outward appearance or who he is related to..or even because of his age and the "common" attitude of that age. Respect works both ways and there are a few staff within the corporation that have forgotten this.

There is just so much more to the "society" of a school than can be learned from an obscan answer sheet.

I'll quit now. This is too long already...

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Wed, Dec 3, 2008, at 12:57 PM

I agree that parents need to be advocates for their children. I have had many middle school teachers respond when I have asked questions. They seemed happy to help.

I do not think the problem is the teachers. I think many administrators need a refresher course in the things they expect our children to do.


-- Posted by sassypants on Wed, Dec 3, 2008, at 1:10 PM

Our present school board is no different from any of the others we have had in the past. Several of the members have personal grudges to avenge and/or favors to give to supporters and friends. I'm not really sure of the purpose of the surveys being distributed at taxpayers' expense, but I'm sure it's not because the Board truly cares what the people think. Our Board continues with the business of micromanaging the affairs of the school. They allow a few disgruntled parents and staff members to dictate actions concerning building leadership and make decisions without knowing the facts. It is disgusting to watch such actions. If I was an administrator with CCSC, I'd be job hunting and fast.......you never know which one will be on the chopping block next!

-- Posted by Bigpappy on Wed, Dec 3, 2008, at 9:58 PM


I agree about the micromanaging. It is long standing problem. On one level I understand the reason behind it as board members are there because they aren't happy with past decisions so want to "fix" things. I give them credit for that but they by pass authority it seems at times instead of working from the top down. For example, to be a volunteer or an employee, you must wait until a board meeting so you can be approved by the board. I don't think a board is meant to do this type of thing. Isn't that what personnel person does; or even staff at central office? I never understood why this step in hiring process was needed. If the person hired to do this is not doing a proper job, fix that. don't take over their duties. For one thing, board members get paid a pittance for what they do. Setting policy, budget, and long term goals is what a board is for. Some of the other things actually take their attention away from what they need to focus on. I feel that even in the case of the latest building proposals could have been a little less flawed if more time was put into that and less on micromanaging items that should have been turfed to administration. This is not to say that the board members don't have their best efforts into the huge amounts of work they do. Nor is it a criticism of current board. Like some of the other problems within the corporation, to re-align duties of the board would take a lot of man hours to accomplish so members end up glossing over some things in order to get everything accomplished. This is what some of the administrators/teachers/other staff also have ended up doing as responsibilities get added on to their position. It seems to be a sign of the times in all areas. As positions are eliminated or more information is added due to advances in science and technology, more man hours are added in order to cover all the information out there instead of investment into more employees to cover it all. Instead of using man hours to create the survey, might have been used better to redesign board duties, observation of classrooms, totaling up space usage at the various schools? we will never know as the job can be over whelming.

We HAVE lost some building administrators. Some due to disappointment over benefit changes, some over changes in demands of culpability. I just hope that board via central office is sending a clear message of culpability to the various buildings NOW along with the time to fully evaluate staff in order to both enforce disciplinary measures as well as awarding kudos upon staff accurately. It's going to take some real energy and inspiration to create real change. Again that's not to say a valiant effort isn't there. Just that it is going to be a monumental job to really fix things to make each level take on the duties designed for it instead of others taking over the duties because someone else isn't doing what they are supposed to. What we have now at each level are people doing more than their share because some aren't doing their jobs. This is no different than any other organization and like everywhere else, some see it and want it to be fixed, some don't see it, and some don't care so long as it isn't affecting them or those close to them. Then there are those who see it but are not in the position to do it due to time constraints or their own position.

The only ones I have a problem with are those who see it, are in a position to correct it, but don't as it would create an uncomfortable atmosphere as in truth the uncomfortable atmosphere is already present just under the surface and bringing it out into the open more would be addressing it instead of letting it fester. Much of the time this is the parent who only want to get their own child out of the bad situation. They need to care enough about the other children as well and address the issue head on. One person can't fix it either but if a lot of "one persons" would, it could make a real difference for the students and for all the hard working staff in the corporation who ARE doing their jobs.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Thu, Dec 4, 2008, at 6:29 AM

To anyone filing out the survey that hasn't sent it back yet.

Make sure you follow the instructions on the BACK of the cover letter. If you fill out the blue response sheet with all of the information listed on it, it will not be used at all.

Unoit--- If you only have experience with one school, you cannot give the corporation answers truthfully about another school…….lol. I'm pretty sure that they want your perception as to the school you deal with. It was the possibility that money is going to be wasted and an inefficient data collection process used due to what the cover letter said, vice what the instructions on the back of it, plus the information requested on the blue response sheet that concerned me most about the survey. I have to agree with Jenny as to the limitations of a survey such as this, where you must "label" everything either good or bad without explanation or qualification.

As to the school board and school board members, I'm sure that they are doing what they feel is best. However, I'm sure that there is personal history, personal relationships, and personal agendas that affect decisions made by the board. From e-mails that I have received from board members, I'm certain of that…….lol.

One of the problems that I see with the operation of the school board is that the corporation administration submits a recommendation for a vote with little discussion as to other options. The board then votes with very little information. Only if the vote rejects the initial recommendation or if there is public outcry is the board offered another option. I would like to see at least two options publically discussed, preferably three, before the administration recommends action from the board to implement one. "These are things that can be done to improve the situation" vice "here is what I think needs to happen".

The board's function is not to manage the corporation or the schools. I was always of the mind that if I had to constantly supervise an employee, read that as" micromanage", I had given the task to the wrong person. Boiled down, the board's responsibilities are to insure that the corporation has the money to function with as little waste as possible and to set general operating policy.

I was told by a former school board when I stood for school board member that it "is a thankless job." Yes, I think that members are paid $2000 a year which is a pittance, yet I don't think that anyone does it for the money…lol. Some of the members, from their own statements, ran because they saw one thing that they wanted to affect then found that there was a lot more to the position. Some might have ran for election because they "had an axe to grind", then found that even as a member of the board they had little power to accomplish their goal. For whatever reason, they are on the board and must make decisions that affect everyone concerning the corporation. The board would be more effective if it, collectively and individually, would lay aside personal agendas, research the facts from both inside and outside the corporation, and make decisions without personal bias. At times, I wonder if a larger membership on the school board would get better results, then I look at some of the "tripe" that comes out of Congress and shudder…..lol!

If you happened to read the article in the print version, there is a highlighted block informing the reader of a meeting tonight concerning non-renewal of administrative contracts.

-- Posted by FlyinLion on Thu, Dec 4, 2008, at 9:35 AM

So, if I am reading all of these posts correctly, there are too many problems to be fixed.

Is this not a step in the right direction? trying to find out what the problems are??? What is a better solution?

-- Posted by sassypants on Thu, Dec 4, 2008, at 2:10 PM

Sorry Unoit. If I don't explain the first statement with at least two additional ones, I get accused of being too hard on the schools [lol]. In short. rules etc are in place to make things work but in some cases the rules aren't being enforced. It's time to enforce what is already in place so the system works better for all. Students and employees. This will be a big task as certain individuals have NOT been doing this for such a long period of time now.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Thu, Dec 4, 2008, at 3:06 PM

Sassy -- there will always be problems to be solved, every change will have unintended consequences that will bring a new crop of problems. It is a constant on-going task.

This survey puts "the cart before the horse". A better solution would be to inform the public and the parents of problems and solutions that have been found elsewhere so that they have something to compare their experiences to, then ask their opinion of their school. Have you ever been to Florida in the wintertime? While Floridians walk around in coats, I walk around in shorts and tee-shirts. To them, as they live there and have no basis for comparison, 60 to 65 degrees F is cold while, compared to below freezing temps in Indiana, I am warm. Likewise, people will have good or bad experiences in our schools, but those are personal experiences. To determine the "climate of our schools" one must compare them to schools other than ours. How does our number of disciplinary actions graph into a larger population of like items? How does our sixth grades disciplinary actions compare to the national average? The public needs this type of information on many things BEFORE the public forms its opinion.

As I said in an earlier comment, as I see it, this is a failing of our corporation, a lack of research and informing the public.

-- Posted by FlyinLion on Thu, Dec 4, 2008, at 7:10 PM


"The board's function is not to manage the corporation or the schools. I was always of the mind that if I had to constantly supervise an employee, read that as" micromanage", I had given the task to the wrong person. Boiled down, the board's responsibilities are to insure that the corporation has the money to function with as little waste as possible and to set general operating policy."

You have done your research well! That is exactly what the board should do.....set policy. Board members should not be in the business of "hiring/firing" employees, especially when basing their decisions according to information received via phone calls, emails, cards, and conversations from a few disgruntled patrons and/or staff members.

I attended tonight's special session where the majority of the board terminated Dr. Allen's position and accepted Mr. Russell's resignation. (One must wonder why he would resign so early in the year....board pressure perhaps?) In attendance were two other administrators with supportors. Perhaps, they have been told they will most likely be next?? I do believe there are greater responsibilites principals should be accountable for than placating teachers' desires and seeing that the teachers in their respective buildings get along well and like each other.

I listened intently as Ted Jackson and Dottie King shared their concerns about supporting such actions. They seemed to completely understand the importance their vote would have on these two educators' lives and the lives of their families. I commend them for this.

-- Posted by Bigpappy on Thu, Dec 4, 2008, at 8:49 PM

BigPappy - I walked in just as they called for adjournment, forgot regular meetings at 7:30, special meetings at 7:00, so I didn't hear what was said.

I don't like what has happened as the discussion was in executive session, yet I see no way to hold public meetings on personnel issues due to the individual's right to privacy.

I don't like that the school board is involved in personnel decisions, yet giving that responsibility to administrators without oversight has the same, if not more, potential for abuse. I would rather see a system with more documentation of both successes and failures in "fitness" reports, with the individual having the opportunity to submit a rebuttal in writing that became part of the report. Patron comments should go through the person's superior within the administration, be documented, and enclosed with the next "fitness" report, bearing in mind that people are far more apt to report what they see as a failure than they are to comment on what is positive. (Yes, that includes me, too! Especially, me because I'm working to get things changed so I point out the negative!)

LOL.........I always try to do the research before I speak. "It is better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt" which I think is what Ben Franklin said; therfore I try to know what I'm talking about.....even then, I can find myself at times tasting sole........LOL!

-- Posted by FlyinLion on Fri, Dec 5, 2008, at 2:13 PM


I read through one of the no child left behind pamphlets and it stated that one could only switch to another school within the same district. Now I don't know if this has been updated but it sure didn't allow for multiple schools within a district failing....[I am not implying that ours has failed, just what I read and how I understood it].

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Tue, Dec 9, 2008, at 6:16 AM

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