Parents and students want the schools to prioritize teaching, academic support, and social-emotional support, according to the online survey conducted by the Olympia School District from May 16 through June 3.
During the board meeting on Thursday, June 23, OSD Business and Finance director Kate Davis said, "We reached out to the community to ask their perspectives on our priorities around funding." She added that 1,093 responded to the survey, which was posted on the district's various media platforms – including direct emails to staff and families.
She said 72% of respondents are family members; 22% are staff members; 4% are students; and 2% are community members.
In the survey, Davis explained they presented 16 items where respondents ranked each from one to five, with one being the highest priority and five being the lowest.
She said 913 respondents want OSD to prioritize teaching and instructional services.
Citing the online survey result, Davis said 734 respondents had placed social-emotional support in the top 2 priorities. "Social-emotional supports are counseling services, family liaison services, social restorative practices, behavior and mental health support."
About 695 respondents believed that focused academic support for students is necessary too, according to the survey.
"Focused academic support impacts special education, English language learners, multilingual specialists, the Language Arts, and Math interventionist. It is a highly-capable program," Davis added.
The business and finance director admitted it was surprising for the school district to see the Arts in the top 4, with 690 respondents agreeing it is a priority.
The school's arts program includes music, performing arts, visual arts, supplies and instruments.
"When you take out the top four items, a lot of these items kind of fall into the middle of the range without any significant items jumping out," Davis said of the other items.
"I think the community is telling us to focus on teaching instruction, social-emotional support, and academic support," Davis told the board of directors.
The survey also asked the respondents to rank the five lowest priorities.
Davis said 756 who participated in the survey said remote learning options are the least priority; 669 respondents believed it is central office administration; 638 respondents said grounds and maintenance services.
Athletics and activities are on the bottom list, according to Davis.
"Surprisingly, athletics is at the bottom. It made us think we need to reword the question for a future survey," she said, adding athletics and activities impact coaches, athletic directors, number of teams, and activities budget.
Davis emphasized that all of these items are equally important. "When I think about a school system, I think about it like a clock. You often see the face with numbers and the hands working. You don't always see the gears and the pins behind them that make the clock turn and tell the time. All of the parts are equally important to get the job done."
School board member Hilary Seidel commented that many items in the survey directly support the top priorities.
Board of Directors president Maria Flores said the items that respondents want prioritizing are from federal funds, which will go away in 2024.
"We invested in the things you are prioritizing and we want to continue them. We will do a lot of advocacy with the legislature to fund these," she said.
The 16 top priority items in the survey are:
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