Class sizes and other money issues not part of survey

Published 10:22 am Tuesday, June 3, 2014

By Hannah Dillon

Leaving out funding-related questions in favor of ones about technology or sports facilities, in addition to ones about a proposed calendar adjustment, was the direction the Albert Lea school board headed Monday.

The school board talked about the needs assessment with more detail Monday at Brookside Education Center, touching on topics of what will be included in the survey and other points.

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Albert Lea Superintendent Mike Funk previously had said the needs assessment, which could potentially be performed by St. Paul-based Springsted Inc., would include questions about expanding the preschool program and decreasing class sizes.

However, leaving out the money-related questions in favor of questions about technology integration and a proposed Hammer Complex upgrade would be more beneficial, Funk said.

Kenneth Griswold, coordinator of technology integration at Albert Lea Area Schools, gave a presentation Monday about providing a laptop for every student from grades 6 to 12 and mentioned his desire for a needs assessment.

In his presentation, he said an assessment could include students, parents, teachers and the community to answer a few questions that might affect the laptop initiative, such as online accessibility for students outside of school as well as the perception and support of the initiative.

Funk said these questions could be added to the needs assessment that he suggested for the calendar. While the technology integration would cost money, the questions in the needs assessment would mostly be to figure out the community’s opinion.

Mark Ciota, school board member, said the assessment should focus on asking questions about improving the community, not just asking about a calendar.

Funk said that Springsted lays out their surveys with an educational mindset. The questions first ask about the survey-taker’s level of awareness. Then the survey-taker is educated about the subject and asked how their opinion has changed.

Jeshua Erickson, school board member, asked how many surveys would be completed. Funk said that Springsted aims to complete 300 to 400 surveys, and said that the more surveys that are completed, the more expensive the assessment is.

Bill Leland, school board member, echoed Funk’s statement by saying more surveys completed means a higher accuracy rate but also a higher price tag.

There is about a 4.5 percent margin of error at 400 surveys and a 5 percent to 5.5 percent margin of error at 300 surveys, Funk said.

Erickson also asked if the assessment for the calendar would be focused on just parents. Funk said that the survey will be given to a variety of community members to fill out a pre-set demographic, and that he is looking into whether Springsted has the capability of performing bilingual surveys.

The proposed calendar will be discussed more at the next school board meeting on July 16.