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Decatur High School students change classes Thursday. Decatur City Schools recently surveyed parents, teachers and members of the community about how the system is doing.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Decatur High School students change classes Thursday. Decatur City Schools recently surveyed parents, teachers and members of the community about how the system is doing.

Decatur schools offer quality classes, but need work on bullying, survey says

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com · 340-2432

A survey of teachers, parents and the community gave Decatur City Schools high marks in quality education, educational programs and technology access.

But the survey also said the school system’s areas of weakness are bullying, career/vocational programs and school board responsiveness to the community.

School officials conducted the survey this spring as part of its Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ school district accreditation. The school board met Thursday in a work session and is using the survey as part of a long-range strategic plan.

About 800 responses

The school system sent 2,500 surveys and got about 800 responses. Respondents answered about 50 questions. Scoring ranged between 5 and 1, with a score of 5 the best. The system surveyed parents, teachers and members of the community.

High-quality education received a high score from all three groups, which pleased Superintendent Sam Houston. Curriculum and comprehensive educational programs also got high marks.

The community gave a 4.15 rating on the school system’s spending of its tax dollars, another mark that thrilled school officials.

“We feel the energy (at school) of all the things we are trying to do,” Houston said. “But it’s nice to feel validated with some hard data.”

School board member Karen Duke said she thinks the survey shows the school system is doing a better job of communicating through the newspaper about programs like International Baccalaureate, Alabama Reading Initiative and the Mobile Math Initiative.

Director of Curriculum Jeanne Payne said teachers also recognized the school system picks quality programs and sticks with them, while providing quality professional development.

School board President Dr. Charles Elliott said the low marks on career/vocational, substance abuse issues and teaching foreign language show the school system needs to do a better job of communicating to the public.

For example, Decatur is one
of the only systems in the state offering Spanish in middle school.

“The people in our district are saying we’re doing a good job, but we struggle in several areas with perception,” Elliott said.

Since 73 percent of respondents said they’ve been on the school system’s Web site, Elliott said the site should change more often, adding new information to become less static.

Bullies

Bullying got the low area of weakness score from all three groups. Houston said this is an emotional issue and stopping bullying will be a big emphasis this year.

Phil Hastings, director of Safety and Alternative Education, said the school system is trying to educate students, teachers and parents to identify bullying and the importance of reporting bullying to school officials.

“Bullying is a problem, it has always been a problem and it will always be a problem,” Hastings said.

“All we can do is increase awareness and try to decrease bullying as much as possible.”

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