By Polly Keary, Editor
The Monroe School District has good teachers, but not enough resources.
That’s the biggest takeaway from a months-long survey conducted earlier this year by the district.
Over the first half of 2013, the Monroe School District asked people for their thoughts on the school district; what was working and what the district could do better.
They launched a “Great Expectations Listening Tour,” holding 42 meetings in schools, homes, churches and other local sites, and when the tour ended, they tabulated the results.
The results of those meetings, in which about 300 parents, students, staff members and other citizens gave input, became available last week.
The people who talked with the district felt good about the people who work for the schools, the report found.
“The quality of the staff is consistently reported as a strength of Monroe Public Schools,” the results, published on the district website, said. “The teachers and principals are recognized for their passion for education and dedication to the students.”
Another area of excellence, according to people’s comments, is the wide array of options for students. Programs cited included the dual language program at Frank Wagner, Montessori, Sky Valley Education Center, Leaders in Learning, Excel, Advanced Placement and Running Start.
One of the things in which people expressed interest was expansion of those programs that most help kids at the end of their high school careers, including Running Start, which allows students to concurrently earn high school and college credit. Other such programs included advanced placement classes and vocational-technical opportunities.
On the whole, the community was not displeased with the district’s current curriculum, but many want to see more foreign language in middle school, more music and arts, and other life skills education. And others called for more math and science.
Staff who gave input said they need more time for training, planning and collaboration.
Communication was mentioned by staff and community members alike as a key area in which the district could improve.
In fact, the dearth of communication has strained relations between staff and community, some said.
The perception is that a lack of interaction has led to a sense of polarization between parents and teachers,” the researchers wrote. “There is additionally a sense of competition between the middle schools, tension between the alternative and traditional schools, and a division between Maltby and the rest of the district.”
That, in turn, has led the community to become less engaged with the schools, many said they believed.
The biggest problem reported by community members was a lack of resources across the board. Facilities, technology and student services all need additional funding, many said, arguing that a lot of technology is outdated, and facilities are in poor condition in some places. And some said that technology isn’t distributed equally around the classroom and called for district-wide standards.
Furthermore, many parents worried that support staff have been reduced in number and class sizes have grown too large.
“Many feel that Monroe Public Schools is competing with better funded districts in the area that are able to provide students with more resources,” the researchers reported.
The researchers compiled a list of suggested actions for the school district based on the outcome of the listening tour.
Among them are offering more professional development, increasing support services, and greater staff promotion of the district.
In order to address problems of outdated facilities and technology, as well as a dearth of staff, the researchers suggested seeking increased financial support from the community, setting classroom technology standards, and acquiring updated technology.
It was also suggested the community be given greater access to computer labs.
For students, more curriculum options at the high school, more life skills such as financial basics, more and earlier language classes, more vocational-technical options and more combination of traditional and alternative methods were suggested.
And in order to improve communication between the district and the community, as well as with the schools themselves, the researchers suggested increase communication with families, creating partnerships with local businesses and holding resource fairs for parents, as well as creating more volunteer opportunities.
The full report is available at http://www.monroe.wednet.edu/BOARD/GELTReport.pdf.