surveys and understanding the community you serve

So, I couldn’t help but notice that the Recycling and Refuse Management Committee (RRMC) is sending out a survey about the Town’s options for waste management. They’re promoting it widely — on the Town Meeting listserve, even on the front page of the Town website.  They want to get feedback from ALL residents, as they should. (The survey is here: http://amherstma.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1748)

And a week or so ago the Town’s LSSE sent out a survey about planned renovation of Groff Park (available here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/66PHX6Z

The “Elementary Building Project” (still often called the “Wildwood Building Project”) has still to this day never done a community survey. Despite

  • a multi-year planning process from 2013 to winter 2015,
  • that resulted in a plan to build a large new building to house 750 students at $67 million,
  • completely transforming the entire elementary school grading approach and configuration of the Town,
  • shutting down all three of the current elementary schools, and
  • affecting literally every elementary child in this Town for the next 50 years —

despite all this, for some reason the School Committee and the School Administration opted NOT to survey the community — parents, grandparents, future parents, recent students, non-school-using taxpayers — to see what we want for our schools; how did we feel about the K6 versus reconfiguring; small schools versus large; location; cost.

After considerable pressure from the parent community the School Committee authorized a survey, under very short timing, in January 2016. It showed pretty much the opposite of what the Administration was recommending: It showed that parents and teachers alike wanted to keep K6, and that of all the options on the table, by far the least popular was reconfiguring the schools.

Given this feedback, you might think that the school administration and School Committee would be interested in knowing if the larger community would feel similarly.  Because if so — if the larger community also placed the reconfiguration option as a distant last place — then surely the decision-makers would want to know that before betting on a $67 million building project.

The parks people knew that the sensible thing to do before embarking on a park project of a couple of million dollars is to survey the community it serves.

The waste management people know that in planning ahead for the next decades, they should take a read on the community’s priorities.

Why didn’t the School Administration do their due diligence too?

 

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