Troy school leaders surprised by student survey responses

Just more than one-half of high school students surveyed as part of a Troy City Schools strategic planning project said they feel safe at school and overall reported mental health issues are the biggest challenge facing students today.

The mental health finding reflects recent national surveys, said consultant Bobby Moore.

“Don’t react too negative to that, thinking you are different,” he told board members and administrators.

The student responses to the question about feeling safe (54 percent) and another question where a similar number (50.3 percent) said they felt the school had their best interest at heart were more of a surprise for the board members and administrators gathered to review findings of surveys and focus groups.

“It was alarming to hear what our students think. It concerns me that our students are thinking that way,” said board member Tom Kleptz.

“That is a cultural thing we need to learn from,” said Michael Moore, district director of curriculum and instruction.

More work would be needed to find out what is causing the student beliefs, said consultant Doug Carpenter of Epic Impact Education Group, hired to work on the district strategic plan.

Bobby Moore said there is a “gap” in most schools between teacher intention and student perception.

Dave Dilbone, high school principal, pointed out parent comments did not reflect those of students. “So, kids aren’t saying this at home,” he said.

The consultants presented their findings and talked with the board and administrators for two hours in a recent work session. The decision to pursue a district strategic plan – including taking a closer look at the district – followed the hiring of new superintendent Chris Piper last summer.

The consultants said facilities will be the biggest challenge faced by the district in the next couple of years along with working to improve student achievement levels and improving communication with the public.

The board last fall started to regroup on facilities planning following the November 2017 defeat of a bond issue to build two new elementary schools at the west edge of town off Ohio 55. The two buildings would have replaced six elementary and a sixth-grade building.

“People have some really strong feelings … about neighborhood schools and where you are building them. If you go to one campus, you are going to get beat up over it,” Bobby Moore said.

Board member Ginny Beamish said other options for buildings and locations are being explored.

“We are smart enough to know that is not a good idea,” she said.

The board is talking about pursuing another bond issue as early as May 2020.

Another key topic heard in focus groups was “we need to be better, and more like some of our area schools,” Bobby Moore said.

He talked with the board about test scores, student growth each year, preparing students for college and careers, perceptions and needs. The district hit 29.2 percent (7 out of 24) of the state indicators on the report card last year, an F on the state report card. Among recommended strategic plan goals were to implement a specific instructional plan to move the district to a “B” level or higher.

Most board members said they saw the schools as good with the need to always improve.

Bobby Moore said there is great pride in the community and its schools.

“This is a district with a lot of opportunity– you have a community that is excited about your district,” he said. ”It is a great opportunity to take that enthusiasm and take you to next level of excellence.”

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