Greensburg Salem will ask students and parents to complete a survey to determine what they think of district schools as officials seek to reduce student absenteeism.
“There was a drop in overall attendance last year at our high school, so that’s a concern,” Superintendent Ken Bissell said.
The district also hopes to conduct separate surveys of those who attend school functions as it seeks to increase parent engagement with the district.
The school board agreed this week to release a community school climate survey in Pittsburgh Allegheny County schools, to be completed by students, parents and guardians in the district.
Proposed survey questions, which may be selected by the district, could include items intended to assess parent and student perspectives on school issues, including academics, safety, and discipline.
One of the primary functions of the survey, according to Bissell, is to provide data that CISPAC will use to help the district provide interventions for students who are truant.
In addition to the investigation, CISPAC, under a two-year agreement, “will make available a person who can do house calls and absenteeism counseling,” Bissell said. “It’s not about monitoring truancy, it’s about working with children and families to help them get to school.”
The truancy survey and counselor is funded by a $2 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation which targets chronic absenteeism in area school systems.
In the 2021-22 school year, 75.9% of high school students had regular attendance, compared to 73.9% in middle school. The state average was 82.2%.
Bissell said plans for administering the school climate survey have yet to be determined. In its proposal to the district, CISPAC said it would administer the online polls while ensuring anonymity and confidentiality.
School board member Emily Miller noted that some elements of the survey appear to overlap with a questionnaire that must be presented to students during the school day.
Bissell said families can opt out of this set of questions at school, which he explained is a screening tool used by school counselors.
“It’s part of us providing mental health supports to our children,” he said.
Member Brian Conway asked that the school board be allowed to review the overall results of the school climate survey.
“I would like to understand what the community thinks about what you like about school and what you don’t like about school,” Conway said.
Conway acknowledged the different purposes of this survey and the student mental health screening tool, but added, “If we send survey after survey after survey, are they going to be diluted and are people just going to be all questioned? ”
The council accepted a $4,016 mini-grant from the Consortium for Public Education to support the survey of those who attend events such as football games and choir concerts.
Bissell said the grant will provide three iPads to conduct the electronic surveys and prizes, such as gift cards, as incentives for completing them.
“We’re trying to get more feedback from community members, to help us make decisions,” he said.
Bissell said the district attempted such an investigation during the September 23 return game.
“One thing we want to hear from parents is, ‘What would inspire you to get more involved and engaged in Greensburg Salem?'” he said.That includes attending parent-teacher meetings.
“We need to create more parent and family engagement,” he said.