Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ypsilanti Community Schools Survey Results

Back in May of 2014, the Ypsilanti Community Schools had been around for one school year, and I felt it was time to do some reflection. You might recall that I did a survey. I knew there would be some negative feelings shared in there, but I also expected to hear a lot of positive stuff.

To my dismay, the 35 responses I got were mostly negative. And although I had said that I would post the results, that did give me pause, because I am not interested in tearing down the schools. I don't want to contribute to middle class flight. I really want YCS to be a success and I expect it to take a few years before everything is put together.

So I held off on posting anything. And then one of the YCS school board candidates asked me about the results. So I did share it with all the board candidates (except Don Garrett--his email bounced back--if you have a current email for him please forward it to me).

And then I shared it with a couple of Ypsi acquaintances, with the question of whether I should post the results. If I did post them, should I post them now, or wait until after the election?

Person A was of the opinion that I should post them now, before the election--because people might use that information to evaluate the incumbents. That person felt that if I waited until after the election, what was even the point of sharing the information?

Person B was of the opinion that it would start a necessary conversation, but it wouldn't destroy the district. But Person B also said,
I get it though - the blog is about positivity and advocacy, and this is a whole different area.  I don't know if the people who responded hoped to see their opinions presented publicly or not.  The district has done its own surveys, and they're really the ones who should be charged with presenting the results publicly.  They haven't, to the best of my knowledge, and I wish they would.  
I think that you just shouldn't make the results public.  The blog is a tool to promote things you'd like to see in the schools, and it's been really effective.  This criticism of the district, although I'd love to see it out and discussed, isn't really within the mission, as far as I can tell, of the Musings blog.

This led me to a little bit of an identity crisis as far as the Schools Musings blog goes. I mean, sure, I want to be a positive catalyst for change. But at the same time--I'm all about transparency, right? One of the cardinal aspects of this blog has been pushing for more transparency from the various local districts. The district SHOULD be publishing results of its surveys. (Somebody could get those results by FOIA'ing them, I imagine.)

But if I'm an advocate for transparency, then I need to walk the walk and talk the talk as well.  

So, herewith, you will find a short summary of what to me are the key findings--and then a link to the survey results themselves, so you can read the comments in detail. Take the findings with a grain of salt though, because this survey was not randomly-administered.

1. There were many upset band parents with the new (last year's YCS) band director. (You might recall that the well-loved Ypsi Schools band director was not re-hired. Apparently he had not had his paperwork in correctly during the hiring process.) Since I wrote the survey: The band director from the first year of YCS has retired. However, he has not quite "let go" of his role. The newly-retired band director has still been taking pot shots at the new YCS fight song on Facebook. For example, on August 15th he wrote on the YCS Marching Band 2013 Facebook page, 
Since it was established with the support of the district administration that the new fight song for Ypsilanti Community high school would be taken from "On Wisconsin" this past school year. We would be interested in knowing who arbitrarily made the decision for the marching band to play Oh, Northwestern as the new fight song this summer without the input from the district or any school employee, meaning the current high school band director. And since there is currently no band director in place at the high school who had authority to make this change?

2. Many parents upset with the new (last year's YCS) athletic director. This didn't really surprise me given the fact that he had a job history that did not speak to stability. Since I wrote the survey: The athletic director has been moved to the assistant principal position at the middle school. I'm not sure that really is "dealing" with the issue (some concerns about him seem wholly related to the AD position, and others not)--but the new AD appears to have a more traditional background for an AD and I hope will be more successful.

3. Many parents and staff concerned with violence and safety. The district continues to take steps to address these issues, but I'm not sure they are there yet.

4. Other concerns:
Lack of transparency in the district
Lack of support for teachers
Lack of challenging programs for top students
High staff turnover
Not following up on community recommendations and district vision

Some other relevant things: The YCS teachers finally have a union contract. But they are still the lowest-paid teachers in any of the county districts. Elementary teachers also get only $200/year to spend on students--for pens, paper, copies, basically anything. So is it any surprise that there is high turnover?

Now, without further ado, here are the results: link

And if you'd like to comment on them below, let me suggest that you put into your comments some concrete steps that the district could take to make things better going forward.

I  want YCS to be a success. What is the best path for that?

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