Survey: Opinions of school district are improvingFarmington residents are generally happy with their schools, and in some key areas they are much happier than they were when the district asked their opinion five years ago.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Farmington residents are generally happy with their schools, and in some key areas they are much happier than they were when the district asked their opinion five years ago.
According to a survey conducted in June by Decision Resources Ltd., 84 percent of school district residents believe the schools provide an excellent or good quality of education. That puts the district in the top quartile of suburban school districts where Decision Resources has conducted surveys, and it is up from 2007, when only 68 percent said they were happy with the job local schools were doing.
That kind of growth was a trend through much of the survey. 40 percent of the survey’s 400 respondents said the quality of Farmington schools had gotten either somewhat better (28 percent) or much better (12 percent) over the past five years. Another 41 percent said the quality was about the same, and 11 percent said the schools were either somewhat or much worse.
“That’s a very strong position to be in,” Decision Resources’ Bill Morris told school board members at a Monday night workshop meeting. “People do see the quality is changing, and very few people think it’s going in a bad direction.”
Opinions of the Farmington School Board have also improved. In 2007, 43 percent of survey respondents gave board members a negative rating and only 35 thought they were doing a good job. This year, 47 percent gave board members a positive rating and negative ratings dropped to 37 percent.
Residents also had a better view of the district’s teachers. In 2007, 69 percent of residents thought teachers were doing a good job. This year, 87 percent of residents gave teachers a positive rating.
Farmington was the rare district where people are generally happy with the size of classes. Only 11 percent of respondents identified class sizes as the most serious issue in the district, and 4 percent identified class sizes as one of the things they like most. Morris said Farmington was one of only two districts Decision Resources surveyed where class sizes were identified as a positive.
Class size concerns were most serious at the high school level, where 37 percent of respondents expressed a positive view and 42 percent were negative. At the elementary level, 59 percent of respondents were happy with class sizes, and at the middle school level 50 percent were happy and 36 percent were unhappy.
Also identified as concerns were budget cuts (9 percent, up from zero five years ago), declining quality (4 percent) Poor decisions (2 percent), discipline (6 percent) and the new high school (3 percent.
There were 7 percent of responses scattered among various concerns that Morris said included “really idiosyncratic” answers like the landscaping around the high school and a teacher one respondent had 20 years ago.
Residents are increasingly concerned about the district’s spending habits, though. 19 percent of residents identified poor spending as the district’s most serious issue, making it the second most common concern behind education funding. In 2007, 12 percent of residents were concerned about district spending.
Responding to a different question, 37 percent of residents said the district does either a good or excellent job managing its finances, while 56 percent said the district does a fair or poor job. Morris said the average across the metro is closer to a 50-50 split.
Overall, residents are overwhelmingly happy with the district’s facilities. 86 percent of respondents gave the buildings a positive rating, which Morris said was well above the suburban norm. 80 percent gave athletic programs a positive rating and 77 percent were happy with regular instruction.
67 percent of respondents were happy with the district’s music offerings, and Morris said the percentage of people who were informed enough to evaluate the programs was unusually high.
Overall, Morris said the district had done “incredibly good work” over the past five years, both improving the district and communicating the things going on in Farmington schools. Uncertainty among survey respondents dropped in several areas. Most people, Morris said, indicated they were well informed about schools.
Just where they get their information came as a bit of a surprise. Local newspapers were the most common source at 21 percent, but word of mouth was second at 19 percent. Morris said that is an unusually high number of people getting their information from another person.
“Your grapevine out here is absolutely amazing. It’s vivid. It’s lush,” Morris said.
Morris said there are two primary grapevines in the district, and they don’t overlap much. One is made up primarily of young parents, the other of older, longtime residents. He suggested the district find a way to get information to residents more directly.
Overall, though, Morris said the survey showed positive results for the district.
“What we have in general are good ratings,” he said. “People are more satisfied than they were five years ago.”