Ahead of referendum, ECSD gets high marks

Posted 1/4/22

Teaching staff excellent, district financial management is sound ELLSWORTH – A survey conducted of Ellsworth Community School District households shows strong confidence in the district direction, …

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Ahead of referendum, ECSD gets high marks


Teaching staff excellent, district financial management is sound

ELLSWORTH – A survey conducted of Ellsworth Community School District households shows strong confidence in the district direction, its teaching and its administration.

With the school board planning this spring to ask voter permission to exceed the stateimposed levy spending cap, the district contracted with Morris Leatherman Company to “check the temperature” of stakeholder opinions. The survey was conducted over the phone in November with 400 district residents. Considering that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out a variety of opinions on how education should be handled, the Ellsworth Community School District has the confidence of its residents.

“We’re very happy with the results,” Superintendent Barry Cain said. The school board heard a presentation from Morris Leatherman at its December meeting. Considering the results, a resolution is expected to be passed at its Jan.


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10 meeting to schedule a referendum April 5 to renew its operational expense levy override, which it must do every four years. The district plans to seek permission for an additional $1.3 million annually for the next four years.

Results of this survey were very similar to four years ago, when the district last hired Morris Leatherman to take the community pulse.

“Even with COV1D and the opinions that people have on what some public agencies are doing, we come out very well. We were happy to see we are very, very strong. Even in areas where we see some dips in positive ratings, we don’t see increases in negative ratings,” said Cain. 'In today’s world, that’s very, very good for our district. We’ve always had a very supportive community, and it just shows through again, no doubt about it.”

Perhaps the most impressive result in the survey is the high marks the community gives for job performance. This year, 90% of those surveyed have a positive opinion on the district teaching staff, compared to 91% four years ago. Principals earn a 73% positive rating, compared to 84% in the last survey. The superintendent positive rating is 67%, compared to 74%in 2017, and the school board earned a positive view of 64% of respondents, compared to 70% last survey. In instances where the positive number dipped slightly, the negative perception didn’t increase much. In most instances, respondents answered that they were unsure of an answer on the question.

“It’s just wonderful to see the belief in our teaching staff. It tells our teachers when they communicate with a parent and work with a parent, the people who are being served in our community, they trust you. They know you do a good job. That’s a real leg up for us,” said Cain.

Respondents are also pleased with financial management. Of those surveyed, 83% believe the financial management of the district is excellent, good or fair. Only 8% surveyed felt it’s poor.

“The numbers for financial management, they’re still very, very strong,” said Cain. “People feel as though we are doing a good job financially managing the district. We’ve had ongoing operational référendums. We’ve had facilities référendums. We have over two thirds of our residents that feel we’re managing financially very, very well as a district. 1 think that’s great to see.”

When asked the important question on whether they support extending the $1.3 million operating levy, residents indicated that they would. In the “pre-test” question, asked before any reasons were given for the referendum, 55% of residents said they’d support it, and another 13% indicated “strong support.” The numbers in opposition and strong opposition were 28%.

After a series of questions about why the referendum is necessary, the support and opposition were virtually identical.

The survey numbers will add up to the referendum being presented in April.

“We feel like we have a sound plan we are bringing forward, and the survey shows we have community support,” said Cain.

A look at the survey Here’s a closeup snapshot of some aspects and opinions in the Ellsworth Community School District.

Demographics – Of those surveyed, 27% have lived in the district for 10 years or less and 10-20 years.

Empty-nesters comprised 63% of survey respondents, while 30% had children in the district schools, and 17% had preschoolaged children.

Those with homes valued at between $200,000 and $300,000 made up 31% of respondents, while 26% said their homes were under $200,000, and 23% live in homes valued at over $300,000. Renters made up 15% of the sample.

Politically, 40% reported being Republicans, and 37% said they were Democrats. Political independents comprised 21% of those surveyed. Quality of Education OF those surveyed, 85% have the perception that the ECSD quality of education is excellent or good, right in line with past surveys.

Ranked in order of what respondents like most about the district (top five results) is good teachers, variety of programs, community involvement, small class sizes and sports/extra curri culars.

The two most serious issues facing the district were seen as lack of funding (16%) and the COVID pandemic (15%). Other responses that got a scattering of responses was teacher shortages and the mask policy.

The overall quality of education remains consistent in the district. In the recent survey 88% viewed it as much better, somewhat better or about the same, compared to 89% four years ago.

Complete survey results can be viewed at https ://dri ve. google, com/ file/d/1 qy 80zSRNGMj5XkE6ccKneLKrTuCR4eqD/ view