By DAVID GREEN
The Morenci school district received grades similar to most other schools in the county from a survey organized by the Lenawee ISD. Overall favorability stands at about 77 percent among all county schools.
In Morenci, teachers were chosen as the district's greatest asset by a much larger margin than the county average, however, the percentage of parents saying the school district is heading in the right direction was lower.
More than a thousand county residents were randomly chosen from those living in the 11 public school districts for a telephone survey undertaken in December.
"All superintendents worked together to shape questions," said Morenci superintendent Michael Osborne, then the research firm of Banach, Banach and Cassidy developed the survey. The survey was given a 95 percent level of confidence for accuracy, with a sampling error rate of ±2.9 percent. This means the data from any particular survey question could actually be about three percent higher or lower.
The public's attitudes about locals schools showed general satisfaction, Osborne said.
In the Morenci district, 67 parents of students were questioned, along with 20 residents who don't have children in school.
Respondents were asked to give their district an overall grade and 75 percent gave Morenci A and B grades. Twenty-seven percent of parents awarded the district an A and 10 percent of non-parents gave an A. All county schools together received A and B grades from 77 percent of those surveyed.
Morenci's educational program received an 80 percent positive rating (all A and B grades) compared to 79 percent county-wide. Parents were much more likely to award an A grade.
Fifty-eight percent gave the school board a positive rating, however 15 percent gave no grade at all. The quality of teaching garnered a 72 percent favorable rating (79 for the county), and again, parents gave a much higher grade than non-parents.
Administrators earned a 58 percent favorability rating in Morenci compared to 72 percent in the county total. Twelve percent of the Morenci residents gave no response.
In the final questions receiving a grade, 62 percent said the school adequately prepares students for careers and work (with no response from 10 percent) and an equal number gave a positive response about preparing students for college (no response from 11 percent).
Residents were then asked their opinions on a variety of school-related topics, starting with the main barriers to prevent local students from attending college. Forty percent faulted the cost of college, 10 percent cited a lack of help from counselors and other school officials, and 18 percent gave no response. About a quarter of the non-parents spoke of a lack of scholarships and financial aid.
In Morenci, 47 percent of respondents said they were very well informed about school issues and 33 were somewhat informed. Newspapers were cited as the chief source of information, followed by friends and neighbors, classroom teachers, and students. In other districts, the school website was listed as the main source of information by parents. For non-parents, 43 percent of Morenci residents listed the newspaper as the main source and 28 percent did county-wide.
Respondents listed curriculum issues as the type of information they are most interested in, followed by school events, financial information and test scores. Information about athletics was ranked low on the list.
Teachers were rated as the greatest strength of the school district (30 percent by Morenci parents and 22 percent county-wide; 40 percent by non-parents and 19 percent county-wide). The small-town environment was next on the list of strengths.
Half of those questioned listed finances as the district's greatest challenge—much higher than the county-wide figure—while bullying, curriculum improvement and finding qualified staff members were much further down the list.
Residents are well aware of efforts to trim costs and they favor collaboration and sharing staff by a 64-31 margin. Contracting with private companies for services such as bus drivers and custodial chores was supported only 34 to 56 percent, and consolidation with another district was given even worse favorability, 25 to 68.
More than half of Morenci respondents are opposed to a marketing program to recruit students from other school districts. The development of additional charter schools was viewed unfavorably, 13-66. Ninety-two percent of Morenci residents see the school as a safe place for students.
Supt. Osborne sees potential problems with passage of the May 7 bond vote because 78 percent of those surveyed saw no need for renovation and repair of school facilities. The bond vote will ask residents to extend an existing bond for the purpose of maintenance needs. The school board will need to educate residents about the physical needs of the school district.
About 67 percent said the quality of the Morenci school district is the same or better than neighboring districts—about 10 percent less than the county average—and an equal number said that Morenci offers enough extracurricular activities.
The lunch program was rated 64-30 for nutritious meals and efforts to eliminate bullying was rated 70-20.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the survey for Morenci administrators came at the end of the questioning when 64 percent indicated the district is headed in the right direction. For the county as a whole, the figure stood at 80 percent.
Parents were asked why they think families might enroll their children in neighboring districts. A stronger academic program was listed by 21 percent, better discipline and better teachers each were listed by 15 percent. Four of the 67 parents interviewed send their children to other districts. Percentages were similar throughout the county.
The LISD TECH Center program was seen positively by about 75 percent of those interviewed; 11 percent had no opinion.