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While the Citrus County School Board was content with how students, parents and staff responded to the district’s annual survey, officials want more people to share their comments.

Roughly 39% of teachers, support staff and administrators — 818 people in total — and around 6% of families (1,034 people) completed the 2018-19 questionnaire distributed in each school, district Director of Research and Accountability Amy Crowell told board members at their Tuesday meeting.

The survey asks respondents for their opinions on matters like school safety, instructional quality and the condition of school facilities. The district uses the survey to look for areas where it can improve, or areas where there's a perceived shortfall.

“We didn't have as many as we would want to,” Crowell said, adding the lack participation translates to less reliable data.

Board member Sandra Counts said she was “disappointed” over the small number of staff responses.

“If you’re complaining, this is your time to make a change,” Counts said. “There’s no change if we don’t know.”

On the other hand, an estimated 28% (4,418) of students — mostly from elementary schools — filled out responses.

“I guess we kind of hold them captive and make them do it,” Crowell joked, “but we still need to have more feedback.”

In hopes of increasing survey participation, Crowell and Dr. Scott Hebert, the district’s chief academic officer, said they’re working on more “unified” policies for schools to guide them on when and how to send out the surveys, starting next year.

Efforts are also being made to consolidate the number of questions on the 15- to 20-minute online survey, which asks respondents to rate levels of satisfactions on subjects related to administrators, teachers, students, the School Improvement Plan, school facilities and safety.

Crowell said they’re considering sending out a paper version of the survey in order to reach participants who don’t have access to the internet.

Thomas Kennedy, the board’s chairman, cautioned that school staff might be dissuaded from filling out paper surveys for fear they won’t be anonymous.

Board member Doug Dodd suggested opening up school computer labs for the surveys, and said administrators should do more to encourage participation within their schools.

Herbert said more might take the survey seriously once the district gets the word out about its potential impacts to future strategic planning in conjunction with statewide education survey responses.

“People want to know what we’re going to do with these results,” he said.

With what data was available, Crowell presented an overall response to surveys.

An average 89% of answering staff, parents and students gave school leaders high marks of approval, and reported positive reviews on the district’s current state of school safety, which hovered around a 88% average and included 79% of responding students.

“I’m very pleased with that,” Dodd said about public feelings on protections. “These changes that are taking place ... makes them feel safer.”

Conditions of school facilities were rated the lowest in approval by staff members and students, of which 67% and 53% respectively said was satisfactory.

Crowell noted to board members those responses did contain discrepancies over facility cleanliness versus its visual appeal. 

“They might not like the way it is,” she said, “but it’s clean.”

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Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or bthompson@chronicleonline.com.

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