Evansville committee to recommend three referendum questions

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Gina Duwe
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

EVANSVILLE--A citizen committee plans to recommend the Evansville School Board consider asking three referendum questions focused on improving curriculum, technology, facilities and safety after seeing the results of a community survey.

If a vote were held today, residents likely would approve a major maintenance referendum after a survey showed 49 percent of respondents in favor of the move, a consultant said.

During a citizen advisory committee meeting Monday, Bill Foster of School Perceptions presented results from a recent survey sent to all 4,200 households within the district.

Foster, who was hired to conduct the survey, reported the district received 1,148 responses, or 32.3 percent, which he said was a great turnout.

The results included:

--Reading, math, computer/technology literacy and science were seen as most important to students' success. Drama, competitive athletics, art and programming for students whose primary language is not English rounded out the bottom of the list.

--Residents reported the district was doing the best in music and drama while programming for students at risk of not graduating, computer/technology literacy, foreign language and preparation for college were at the bottom of the list.

--A “gap analysis,” the difference between the importance and performance ratings, was provided for parents and staff respondents. Preparation for college, computer/technology literacy and programming for students at risk of not graduating were the top three from both parents and staff.

The district has not discussed when to hold a referendum, Superintendent Jerry Roth said.

The school board will hear the committee's recommendations at the March 12 board meeting and discuss the issue in April. A vote on going to referendum likely would come in May or June, Roth said.

Residents were asked if they would support several referendum scenarios:

--Additional funding to retain and attract employees: 49 percent said “yes,” 27 percent said “no,” and 24 percent were undecided/needed more information.

--A $900,000 referendum for curriculum/textbooks: 64 percent said “yes,” 19 percent said “no,” and 17 percent were undecided/needed more information.

--A $300,000 referendum to upgrade security/safety: 55 percent said “yes,” 23 percent said “no,” and 22 percent were undecided/needed more information.

--Spending $85,000 annually to add a police liaison officer: 26 percent said “yes,” 47 percent said “no,” and 27 percent were undecided/needed more information.

--A $2.8 million facility maintenance referendum: 49 percent said “yes,” 20 percent said “no,” and 31 percent were undecided/needed more information.

--A $1.52 million technology referendum: 57 percent said “yes,” 22 percent said “no,” and 21 percent were undecided/needed more information.

The survey results were split out into responses from parents, staff and non-parent/non-staff residents, which showed majority support for maintenance and technology referendums from parents and staff. Only 45 percent of non-parent/non-staff residents said they would vote for a maintenance referendum and only 20 percent would approve spending on technology.

The survey also found 56 percent of respondents support starting a 4-year-old kindergarten program. A separate committee is studying that issue and also will make its recommendation March 12.

On Foster's advice, the committee agreed to recommend limiting the number of referendum questions to three.

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