Survey Shows ISD 728 Communities Support Schools, Values
Independent School District 728 recently conducted a community survey with the assistance of Morris Leatherman Company, the first survey of its kind in more than five years. The district, according to ISD 728 Superintendent Dan Bittman, wanted the survey to help assess if its new Strategic Plan is in harmony with community values as area schools take aim at a new decade of learning. “It’s one more data point for us to ensure we are meeting student, family and community needs while planning for our future as a district,” Bittman said. “We see our new community-developed Strategic Plan as the foundation for that process as we aim to provide the most appropriate and functional learning environments for kids.” Peter Leatherman, co-owner of the Morris Leatherman firm, said the district has strong support among stakeholders and families in its mission to educate, inspire and empower all learners in ISD 728 communities.
Leatherman’s highlights were shared with the School Board and community at the November 26, 2018 meeting. While the complete presentation is available on the district’s website, a few of the highlights Mr. Leatherman shared are provided below.
Nine out of 10 of those surveyed said the district is performing at “good” or “excellent” levels when it comes to areas such as educational quality, staff and academic programs. Survey responders also showed strong support for district leadership, financial management and student achievement levels. Residents value maintaining our school buildings, as well as keeping curriculum updated - both of which are challenges given inadequate state funding that has resulted in $10 million in budget cuts in the past six years.
A Growing District
Leatherman reported that residents and stakeholders recognize the district is located in the heart of several growing communities. Those taking the survey shared that despite the continued growth, they continue to value small to medium class sizes, with half of the respondents recommending high school and middle school classes be kept at less than 30 students in a class. Participants support the district’s mission to provide equity between buildings throughout the district and recognize the importance of having flexible learning spaces to meet individual student needs. More than 8 out of 10 community members believe there should be similarities across the district when it comes to cafeteria space, gym space, classroom design and other amenities.
Significant growth was also highlighted in a recent state demographer’s report which was completed in collaboration with local city, county, and state officials and presented at the November 15, 2018 school board meeting. The demographer shared that growth in terms of additional housing and student enrollment are projected to continue to increase, with the potential for 2,000 additional students in the next ten years. She noted further that school district enrollment has increased by 8% in the last 10 years, and is expected to grow more than that in the next ten. This growth will create a space crunch in the north and south of the district, while having the most impact on elementary schools located in both Otsego and Rogers. She commented further, “the district would be wise to consider additional elementary space in the south, as more will be needed.”
“While growth is a good problem to have, it creates a need we are still working to get in front of and address,” said Shane Steinbrecher, chair of the ISD 728 School Board. “We’ll be working closely with our community to make sure we have adequate resources to support families who are new to our district and those who have been with us in the past.”
Communication is Key
The survey showed many people get most of their information from district newsletters, the local newspapers (Star News and Crow River News) and from neighbors and friends.
Communication is a key tenet, Bittman said, as exciting things are happening in schools each and every learning day, including new community partnerships, innovative learning through technology and STEM, and an award-winning emphasis on the arts.
“It’s a very exciting time in ISD 728, and we could not be more proud of our students, staff, and community. This survey gives us one more look at where we are in meeting community expectations and student needs, while making sure we are ready for the future.”