I am a marketing and advertising guy. I have written and conducted more surveys than Clausen’s has pickles. Surveys are one of the most valuable tools I can use to help determine whether a product, service, or program is working, and to determine next steps.

But a survey is only as good as the questions. Today’s example is the fake Collegiate Calendar Survey offered on the N-MUSD website. Here are the questions:

1. Please select the best option for a student start date:

a. Start school BEFORE Labor Day (Move to an earlier start and end date)
b. Start school the SAME as now (Early September after Labor Day)
c. No preference

2. If the student start date is moved to an earlier date, please indicate your preference:

a. Move the student start date UP TO TWO WEEKS earlier and end the first semester by winter break
b. Move the student start date UP TO THREE WEEKS earlier and end the first semester by winter break
c. No preference

3. Are you an NMUSD employee?

a. Yes
b. No

4. The role that best describes me is:

a. Student
b. Parent/Guardian
c. Community Member
d. Disgruntled, fed-up taxpayer (No, this wasn’t an option. I added it to keep things light.)

5. If you are a student or parent: which school do you or your children attend?
If you are an NMUSD employee: What is your work location?
If you are a community member: Which school are you most closely associated with?

a. [List of all N-MUSD schools]

That’s it! Nice and short and neat and tidy. Except for one thing… It’s not a good survey. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • There isn’t a single question that address the reasons why the respondent does or does not want a new schedule.
  • There is no “additional comments” section, which often has the most insight into what respondents are thinking.
  • There is no follow-up option: Nothing that asks the respondent if the district can reach out to him/her if they want more information.
  • There is no next step: There isn’t a single word telling the respondent what will be done with the results, or when/whether they will be available to review.

Why is all that stuff missing? Because they don’t really care about what you think or whether you see the results. The fake survey was not structured to assess a new program, it was designed to support it. There’s no depth to this survey, nothing that will give the district some insight as to whether they need to tweak their plan, leave it as it is, or scrap it.

Why is there no depth? (Altogether) Because they don’t really care.

So what should have happened? The district should have conducted four separate surveys, one each for students, parents/community members, and employees, and the fourth for local businesses. Why? Because these are distinct target audiences with unique reasons for rejecting or supporting a new calendar. The survey should have been actively promoted throughout Newport-Mesa as a new calendar may also have a financial impact on many local businesses.

But in the end, the survey doesn’t matter. The trustees will vote for the new calendar regardless of what you think or how it impacts your business or personal life. Worse, they will approve it without a shred of evidence proving that it will improve academic performance. (see previous post)

It’s business as usual on Bear St., but there is hope. There are four seats up for grabs next year: Franco, Metoyer, Davenport, and Yelsey. We need new trustees – people who understand that transparency is the responsible and right thing to do, who understand that when things go wrong (the Estancia pole debacle, for example, or the Mariners Gold Ribbon mess or so many others), someone needs to be held accountable, just as they would in the private sector, and people who understand that every desk, stapler, and paper clip in the N-MUSD is paid for by people who pay taxes.

We need trustees who bring new ideas to school board meetings instead of just rubber-stamping everything presented to them by the staff.

We need trustees who can think critically and broadly and ask deep questions about impacts and outcomes instead of the superficial questioning the occurs at most meetings

We need trustees who demand data when any new program is presented to them (best practices).

We need trustees who are less concerned about how much respect they are getting than how much respect they are giving to taxpayers.

We need trustees who will actively seek to end the toxic environment that has employees afraid to speak up for fear of being sent to Siberia. (Or fired, as was John Caldecott when he spoke up)

Four new trustees for 2018.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD