Madison, Connecticut

In 1997, the Madison, Connecticut, School Board began considering a survey of the community.  They were asking, "What do community members know about our schools?  What do they feel?  What should we do about it?"

After looking at a number of instruments, the concluded that the one offered by Gang & Gang, Inc. was the best.  Their proprietary approach had been applied nationwide, but would be tailored for Madison.  The sampled taxpayers, and students in grades 5-12, plus all teachers, focusing on:

  • curriculum
  • communication
  • policy
  • facilities
  • pride

The instrument took about 30 minutes to complete since it offered open-ended prompts.  Teachers were the most reluctant; they were concerned about confidentiality.

Results:

  • Learned a lot about what people did not know.  Among other things, this led to a tri-fold brochure about how policies are developed.
  • Board meeting format was changed to include a non-televised, wide-open community comment period during which board members come out from behind their desks to talk with the community
  • The Board began to give a response to speakers when appropriate.
  • The Board established a committee structure with Finance, Long-range Planning, Personnel (Negotiating, Grievance, & Policy), and Policy
  • Very significant negative feedback on the management of central office staff  -- This led to a 2d Gang & Gang project on central office staff that produced better job descriptions and changed structure.
  • From students, they learned:
  1. High school students wanted more challenge.  They fed this result into their regional accreditation process.
  2. Middle school students wanted more respect.  They turned this over to the School Improvement Team, which led to work on school climate.
  3. Fourth and fifth graders wanted foreign language and more advanced math.  This led to a pilot in foreign language the next year in 5th grade and the hiring of a math and science consultant

Overall, they learned that the were very ineffective at communication.  Gang & Gang were terrific to work with and they would like to do a follow-up effort.  The cost for the two projects was approximately $25,000 and they are a 3200 student system.

 

Copyright 1998, 199, 2000, 2001  by David N. Shearon