Saturday, June 15, 2013
Did School District officials have a clear sense of what the public was willing to fund when a $69.6 million plan to overhaul Walla Walla High School was proposed?
That’s debatable. And it has been debated around town, and in the School District Board room, since the bond proposal failed to be approved earlier this year.
Now, school officials have embarked on a mission with the goal of obtaining a crystal clear vision of what Walla Wallans want and will support.
The district is conducting a telephone survey through Washington State University using a scientific model making it accurate with a relatively small margin of error. The WSU survey starts with a random selection of 5,000 residents and then 300 responses will be collected, said Mark Higgins, school district spokesman.
In addition, school officials are hoping a large number of people to fill out an online SurveyMonkey questionnaire on the district website (wwps.org). Results from SurveyMonkey are far from reliable, and school officials are well of aware of that. The online questionnaire will be used do its data can be compared from the WSU survey results. It’s essentially a double check that could prove helpful in confirming trends.
But this effort will only succeed if people agree to talk with pollsters and a wide array of folks — and a whole lotta them — take the online survey.
Shortly after the Wa-Hi bond proposal failed, Superintendent Mick Miller conducted a town-hall style meeting seeking direction from the community.
At that meeting a citizen, Tim McCarty, suggested the district or the citizen bond committee contract with a professional research firm to test options with voters. He said scientific, accurate polling is essential in getting a true read on the direction voters favor.
Miller and the Board not only listened to McCarty, the heard him. They heard what many of the 60 people said at that first meeting and the others that have followed.
Miller and the Board were particularly interested in knowing specifically why people voted against the bond and what they would be willing to support in the future.
Miller, Board members and district officials should be commended for hearing the public and seeking out information to get a true pulse of the community even though the final results could mean a total shift in direction. They are taking a wise approach in developing a new Wa-Hi plan.