Board Questions Community Survey, Re-Prioritizes School Projects
By Gus Herrera
Last week, the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Board of Education convened a special meeting to discuss the results from a recent community survey, as well as the prioritization of future projects funded by Measure TT (MTT).
The survey, which was carried out electronically on the Canadian platform Thought Exchange, included 1,458 participants and allowed parents, teachers, and staff to express their thoughts and concerns.
The district presented participants with the following three questions:
- What are some concerns you have?
- What are some things you appreciate?
- What are some things you would like your child to be able to experience that they currently cannot?
Thought Exchange is unique in that is allows participants to assign “stars” to the ideas/responses they like best, thus revealing which topics are of most importance to the test group.
The three themes of most concern to participants were as follows: a safe and caring environment, academic achievement, and qualified teachers/staff.
Conversely, when it came down to things appreciated, the same three themes received the most amount of “stars,” only in reverse order – qualified teachers/staff came in first with over 3,000 “stars,” followed by academic achievement and safe/caring learning environment.
In response to the third question, the top three themes were as follows: academic achievement (nearly 5,000 stars), safe/caring learning environment, and student wellness/development.
Under the theme of academic achievement, over 2,000 participants said they would like to see more enrichment programs, with another 1,000 interested in seeing more STEM and advanced learning programs.
Several board members questioned the survey’s validity, fearful that results may have been skewed due to its electronic nature.
“Many of our northwest schools had low parent responses … I am concerned we may have heard again from people we often hear from …. [this] might just lead us to want to do other kinds of outreach” said Kimberly Kenne, president of the board.
Longtime Board Member Scott Phelps brought up the idea of a “digital divide” between higher and lower income parents. “Even if we do outreach, it doesn’t mean they are going to respond,” he added.
“I think there was good participation, but the issue raised about it being skewed is serious,” said Dr. Meg Abrahamson, director of student support programs.
The board also discussed the prioritization of future projects funded by MTT.
Nelson Cayabyab, chief facilities officer, proudly announced that, for the first time, the district is in full compliance and “will not be in a situation where future tax audit will be an issue.”
He revealed that the district has spent over $235 million of MTT funds, leaving $126.75 million to fund a list of 27 projects, ranging from the modernization of sites, to the construction of new swimming pools.
At the top of the list are four projects already under contract – projects include a variety of upgrades to Washington Accelerated, Pasadena HS, John Muir HS, and Blair HS.
It is now up to the board to submit their thoughts on the re-prioritization of items that have not been contracted or have not entered bidding. The updated list will then be submitted to the facilities committee, before returning to the board for final approval, possibly as early as May.
One project on the list, the re-opening of Linda Vista Elementary School, saw much support during public comment. Residents and representatives from local associations argued that the Linda Vista neighborhood has undergone significant demographic changes since the board voted to close the school in 2008. Speakers revealed that there has been an influx of young families over the past years – young families who would love to send their children to a local public school.
The Linda Vista project currently stands at number 10 on the list, but the $900,000 in MTT funds committed only cover the planning/design phase. Cayabyab revealed that, as currently conceptualized, construction for the school would require an additional $11.5 million.
Another speaker urged the board to prioritize projects for Wilson Middle School and PHS – sites which she argued have been forgotten and lack district support.
To view the full Thought Exchange results and list of prioritized projects visit PUSD’s website, under the April 13 agenda.