District launches technology survey, talks planning

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 26, 2014

GROSSE POINTES — With the failure of the tech bond, the district is moving forward with the next steps to tackle technology and work with the community to address the district’s needs.

To get more feedback from the community, the district is conducting a survey about technology needs and finances.

The survey covers technology and finances, but this does not replace the annual Community Satisfaction Survey, which will be released in April. The deadline for completing the survey is April 3 at 4 p.m. and can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GPPSSTechPlanningSurvey.

“We’ve been working on this survey for quite some time. The first section deals specifically with technology,” District Community Relations Specialist Rebecca Fannon said.

The district used a number of tools to develop the survey on technology, including letters to the board and administration, letters to the editor in local newspapers, and more.

The survey is open to anyone in the community, whether they have students in the district or not.

“We’re looking for voters in the community,” board President Joan Dindoffer said during part of the discussion on the survey at the March 17 board meeting.

One of the questions that would apply to parents is whether their students have personal computing devices — such as laptops or tablets — and what age parents feel their children should have personal devices for school use.

Another question is where voters received their information when considering the technology bond, with a number of options like local newspapers, the school newsletter, attendance at board meetings and more. There are questions on how respondents would like to see the district use technology and what types of educational technology upgrades they would support.

Other questions address the district’s budget process, since the district needs to work on the next year’s budget. Another key question on the survey asks if respondents would be likely to support the upcoming renewals of the hold harmless and sinking fund millages that will be on the November 2014 ballot. 

While a summary of the results will be shared with the public and used by the district to help with budget and other planning, individual responses on this survey are confidential.

There was a concern raised about residents who don’t have computer access and talk of including a phone survey or hard copies at various locations. Yet, phone interviews are costly, and using hard copies creates a problem with the validity of results, because someone can fill out multiple surveys, according to the district. Fannon explained that using online surveys allows them to see what IP address the survey was answered from.

Besides the survey, the district discussed the other ways that it is moving ahead with addressing technology issues.

“The issue is with the failure of the bond; it’s not the falling down that demonstrates failure — it’s making sure that you get up and you move forward,” Superintendent Thomas Harwood said. “That’s what we’re doing is getting up and moving forward to address the issues and the needs of technology in our school system.”

The district was planning to discuss a budgetary framework for funding the district’s technology needs that includes available revenue and how that could be used to address the most immediate needs.

Harwood said there were also some volunteers within the community with information technology backgrounds and experience who are stepping up to help with their expertise.

“We’re establishing an IT consulting corps to provide feedback,” Harwood said. “We have a group of between five to 10 individuals who have come forth to lend their expertise.”

Board Secretary Judy Gafa said she has heard a lot about monetary issues in terms of technology, but she thought something else should be addressed first.

“We need to make sure that the vision of what this is going to do for our students is somehow incorporated in this,” she said. “We need to have our vision before we start implementing the pieces.”

Board Trustee Thomas Jakubiec agreed in part with Gafa’s statements, but he said that there are things that do need to be addressed as soon as possible.

“There’s some things that are … just outright broken right now that I want to make sure get addressed timely,” he said.

Harwood said that the district would be updating the board and community regularly at board meetings on the status of technology in the district.