Board hears results of community survey
The Plano ISD Board of Trustees was briefed on the results of a community survey administered late last year during Tuesday night's board workshop.
The study, which was conducted by telephone both to Plano ISD parents and a random sampling of residents, asked about 500 people for their opinions.
Dr. Robert Stein, faculty director at the Rice University Center for Civic Engagement, the organization that conducted the survey, told the board that the overall perception of the district is comparable to many of the highly-regarded Houston-area districts surveyed by the center in the past.
"Bottom line is, the district has an unusually high level of customer satisfaction," he said, adding the vast majority of respondents were either "current or past users" of Plano ISD services.
The survey also discovered that the demographics of the district are unusually skewed toward younger families who may be newer to the district.
"By that, I mean the vast majority of people we talked to who represent users are users who have come here to the district in the last 10 years, which means they have children who are appropriately aged at the elementary level," he said, adding the results indicate many residents came to Plano specifically for the schools.
However, the relative newness of the population also means they may not know about many of the district's programs, including Advanced Placement and special education.
"They don't know a lot about the district, because they've been here for a relatively short amount of time, so they don't have buyer's remorse," he said.
When asked what the most important problem the district is facing, 43 percent of respondents said there is no such problem.
"I don't ever recall doing a survey of school districts where you could not get anybody to tell you what the problem was, and no, they weren't 'don't knows' or refusals. Those were taken out," Stein said. "These were people who ... said 'No. There is no problem.'"
Twenty-two percent, however, said the biggest problem was overcrowding, and specifically, increases in classroom enrollment.
"Your numbers don't seem to suggest you have an overcrowding problem, but the perception of parents is you do, and that's something you want to pay attention to," Stein said.
Other frequently cited concerns include the 2011 state funding cuts, the Robin Hood school funding system, lack of teachers and curricular issues, including specific content in English and math.
He also said the district does not have a lot of undeveloped land, and therefore most room for growth comes in the form of multifamily apartments and high-density development.
Traditionally, Plano ISD's tax base has been heavily skewed toward single-family homes. It is for this reason, Stein said, the district should monitor this type of growth moving forward.
"It's expensive to educate a kid in a district like this, which means if you start seeing high-density growth, you're going to see a lot of growth in the district, but it's not a lot of growth you may be able to pay for," he said. "Public education's on an economy of scale."
Superintendent Richard Matkin said the district was pleased with the overall perception, though concerns of overcrowding and a lack of teachers were not surprising since the district increased classroom sizes in 2011 to manage $59 million in state funding reductions.
"How much do we need to put back in the system, either in the way of tax monies or finances to make sure that we keep [our] system in place?" Matkin said, "because we're losing ground due to the budget cuts, and that's really hitting us square up this spring."