Metro schools officials reported Tuesday the first-year results of a five-year customer service survey of sorts, designed to measure student, parent and employee satisfaction with the Metro school system. After looking at the results, schools director Pedro Garcia says the biggest issue raised in the $823,205 study is that students don’t think the bathrooms are clean.
Seriously. “The kids think our bathrooms are dirty,” Garcia said, identifying commode condition as the survey’s key finding. Garcia says that cleaner privies will improve student attitudes toward learning and that when he toured schools in Texas, “you could eat off the floors.”
Garcia presented this vision after officials with Hendersonville-based Quality Management Services (QMS) and their colleagues from a Florida firm, Integrated Organizational Development (IOD), presented an overview of the survey results in a carefully managed press conference this week at Dupont Elementary School. (“Make it 15 minutes, not 20,” said LaVoneia Steele, the school system’s head of communications and strategic planning, in a thrice-repeated stage whisper at the outset of a researcher’s presentation.)
The ambiguous meaning of the firms’ names was rivaled only by the inanity of some of the survey questions, which were distributed to randomly selected students in odd-numbered grades, their parents and all Metro schools employees. Seventh graders, for example, had to choose from four optionsstrongly disagree, disagree, agree and strongly agreein response to the following statement: “I liked doing my homework this year.” Guess what? Sixty-eight percent of them didn’t.
Ninety-eight percent of 9th and 11th grade students agreed that “Portables are all located where they can be easily seen.” Meanwhile, 60 percent of students felt there weren’t adequate suicide prevention programs in place for students.
Teachers, though Garcia hardly mentioned them at the press conference, seem to have strong sentiments about job satisfaction. While 69 percent of them agree or strongly agree that job satisfaction has increased to the school system’s goal of 90 percent, 50 percent disagree or strongly disagree. That means, according to school system math, that a whopping 119 percent of teachers have opinions on the matter. Meanwhile, nearly 40 percent of them feel they’re not respected and appreciated.
But by whom? At least one person who attended the press conference noted that the survey questions were vague. Someone who viewed a survey complained that people were forced to take absolutist positions (neutral options were deliberately excluded) on matters of fact or matters they didn’t feel informed enough to answer. And one school official noted with amusement that students were asked to indicate whether they’d answered the survey honestly. No matter what they said, they could still be lying. (Responses to that question weren’t released.)
The survey, which will be tweaked and repeated annually over the next four years, is designed to measure “customer satisfaction,” to use a term that’s catching on in the system. Metro schools administrators hope to demonstrate measurable gains in each of seven strategic target areas, which include, among others, increasing safety, promoting diversity and tolerance, attracting and retaining teachers and fostering a welcoming environment in schools.
Improving communication was not among the strategic targets discussed in these surveys, although for Garcia, it’s been a rough couple of weeks on the communication front. A small uproar ensued when Metro officials announced two weeks ago that a previously unscheduled orientation for students in grades 5-12 would be held the week before school starts on Aug. 11. Schools spokesman Craig Owensby declared in The City Paper that the orientation was all but required. “Students who don’t take advantage of this are going to be behind on the first day of school,” he said, adding that “They’re also going to disrupt school for everyone else.”
The administration then softened its pronouncement, with a backpedaling statement that students are “strongly encouraged” to attend orientation. It was too late: Much gnashing of teeth and phoning of school board members has already occurred. The beleaguered school board met Tuesday, July 22, and raked Garcia across the coals for his failure to communicate timely information with them and for not alerting them that The Tennessean was preparing to publish a front-page article on resegregation in Metro schools.
It so happened that the board was formally evaluating Garcia’s communication performance that night; he was deemed partially “in compliance” and told to make changes and report back Sept. 9.
In the meantime, test scores and more detailed survey results (breaking down the data by specific schools and gender) are slated to be released to the public in the next several weeks. The communication abilities of school officials may be increasingly put to the test as taxpayers demand to see progress in exchange for their cash. If this big-bucks survey is followed up by big-bust test results, people may think their money is being flushed down those dirty bathroom drains.
@davidlongfellow: What are you implying? The killers explanation for the beheading makes perfect sense to…
Anything that eliminates predators of any stripe or spot is good.
Jakes is right in what he said. If Metro caught any citizen doing this sort…
What's good for the Metro power elite is poisonous for the citizens? I'm shocked, shocked,…
The birds were flying low. Too low for Mr. Xray, the man whose name we…