Marshall school board defers question of community survey -- for now

Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Marshall school board Anita Wright, right, listens while board member Kathy Green discusses her opposition to pursuing a paid community survey at this time. (Eric Crump/Democrat-News)

Columbia's in, but Marshall is taking a wait-and-see approach to the question of whether the school district should pay a professional pollster to assess community views about the district.

At a special meeting of the Marshall school board July 12, the board heard a presentation by a representative of Patron Insight, a communications firm that conducts telephone surveys to gauge public opinion.

As board President Larry Godsey opened the floor Tuesday, July 20, for discussion about whether to pursue a professional survey, he noted that the Columbia school board had just opted to pay more than $14,000 to Patron Insight for a survey.

Board member Kathy Green spoke up first, admitting that she had been enthusiastic about the idea after hearing the presentation, but she said had since changed her mind.

"As tight as money is around here, if we had $8,000 to $14,000 to spend, we should spend it on the kids," she said. "I think it's something that would probably be very helpful, but I don't know that we can afford to do something like that right now."

Board member Anita Wright agreed.

"We couldn't even have summer school. I don't think the community would appreciate having the money spent that way," she said.

Board member Mike Mills spoke in favor of doing the survey -- at some point. He said the "disconnect" between the board and the voters would need to be resolved before the district tries again to float a building bond issue.

"This is a tool that could be extremely helpful" in addressing the reasons voters are unwilling to approve bond issues.

"If we're not going to put it up on the ballot for a while, we don't need to do it right now," he said. "But before we put it on the ballot again, we ought to investigate" doing a survey.

"We need to figure out why people didn't vote for it," Mills said. "There's reasons out there."

Godsey also noted that the board had only heard from one company and if members were interested in a survey, other options could be investigated.

In other business, Superintendent Craig Noah provided the board with an update on the glass art program that had been proposed by Marshall High School art teacher Shawn Harris, who resigned effective the end of the 2009-2010 school year.

Harris had raised about $29,000 through donations and had obtained equipment through the 21st Century Learning Communities grant. His goal was to raise enough money to pay for construction of a glass blowing studio on the MHS campus.

When Harris left the district, he requested the district return money to donors, Noah said.

The money is being handled by the Marshall Education Foundation.

Noah said the foundation board decided Tuesday morning, July 20, to contact donors and ask whether they would be willing to let the money be used for scholarships.

Donors can expect to receive a call or letter from district officials, Noah said.

Noah said Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education officials were contacted to find out how to properly handle the equipment that was purchased for the program.

The district will need to sell the equipment for a reasonable price and return the proceeds to DESE, he said.

Mills asked whether the equipment could be used to offer community education courses, and Noah said if a local person makes the highest bid, that might be a possibility.

"It would be nice if someone in town would take it and offer classes. I would like to take them," Green said.

Contact Eric Crump at ecrump@marshallnews.com

Related stories:
Marshall school board wrestles with multi-grade school issue, may consider survey to shed light on community views:
www.marshallnews.com/story/1648976.html
MHS glass art program closer to reality after benefit dinner April 4:
www.marshallnews.com/story/1530160.html
Glass art program proposal could bring 'a dance of light' to Marshall High School students:
www.marshallnews.com/story/1449547.html

Online:
Schools plan $14,800 resident poll:
www.columbiatribune.com/news/2010/jul/19/schools-plan-14800-resident-poll

Comments
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  • Speaking of surveys, what was the result of that informal survey the Democrat News advertised and collected input on a few months ago? Though it would not have had the rigor of the professional one mentioned above and was aimed at a different question, it might shed some light on the questions that Mr. Mills is asking. Are the results tabulated yet and available for posting?

    Thanks

    -- Posted by oceanlord49 on Tue, Jul 20, 2010, at 9:26 PM
    Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
    It's still on my list of things to do, I'm afraid.
  • I think Mr. Mills' comment that the bond issue has not passed is due to a lack of trust in the board is presumptuous. Many people have commented that we finally got the best piece of land for the schools, but the economic picture was and is unstable so people were hesitant to vote for it. I just want to point out that the only incumbent who ran in the last school board election WAS re-elected, so I'm not so sure it can be assumed that there is a lack of trust in this board.

    -- Posted by oneofmany on Wed, Jul 21, 2010, at 12:01 AM
    Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
    My fault. That's not exactly what Mr. Mills said. I reviewed my notes and revised the story. The "disconnect" he referred is specifically the refusal of voters to approve bond issues the board has tried 5 times in 10 years to get passed. At the meeting last night, he did not speculate on reasons for voter refusal but noted that the survey might help the board learn those reasons.

    Board members generally do suspect that voter distrust is a factor in bond issue failures but not the only factor.

  • The bond issue is just to fresh in everyones minds right now. I know it is the best time for it because of the tax breaks, and I am definately for the new schools and have voted yes all 5 times it's been up for vote. However at this point there has been so many changes and so much confusion it just needs to be put to rest for awhile. If you put it to rest, work behind the scenes to get every wrinkle and issue worked out than in a few years bring a better organized plan with people more capable of properly presenting it, I believe it would pass. Eric that poll the paper did would help know what issues are out there and be a good blueprint for the behind the scenes work. Until then though i believe the school board needs to drop the topic and move on to other items and not bring it up again for a few years.

    -- Posted by oldschool17 on Wed, Jul 21, 2010, at 8:41 AM
  • What a shame that the Shawn Harris plan for a glass blowing program is being dropped. I understand that it is because Shawn Harris was a key person to make the program work. There must have been good interest to be able to raise $29,000.00. How did so much enthusiasm of Shawn Harris end up with his resignation? It would be important to know the reasons for Harris,s resignation, or is this confidential information?

    -- Posted by izaak on Wed, Jul 21, 2010, at 6:30 PM
    Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
    I haven't been able to reach Mr. Harris and school officials typically do not comment on personnel matters.
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