The Rancho Santa Fe School District is beginning a new strategic planning effort in hopes of identifying the district’s values, goals, and mission statements that will inform its new plan.
The first step in the district’s Strategic Design Committee process was to gather input through a survey of students, parents, and teachers. At the June 7 board meeting, they heard the results of the survey presented by caseworker Kali Kim and Jeremy Owen, the district’s director of special education.
Owen said the survey provides insights into what the community is talking about and what matters most to them, which will help establish district values.
“Once we’ve established these shared values, it’s easy to take the next step and start crafting our vision for the school and our mission and purpose,” said Owen.
“The real work will begin in the fall,” Kim said, noting that the Strategic Design Committee plans to host several focus and discussion groups to further clarify these district values. The values, vision and mission statement will go through several iterations with the aim of board approval in December.
The survey was conducted online, asking respondents about their overall R. Roger Rowe experience, learning and priorities for the future. Pupils in grades 4-8 were asked to participate and had a participation rate of 92%. The survey was also offered to teachers and parents with lower levels of participation – the staff response rate was 67% and of the total 368 families invited to participate, only 137 or 37% took part.
Overall, 87% of students and 80% of adults were very satisfied or satisfied with the school.
The disaggregated results showed that 87% of the parents were satisfied or very satisfied; 78.8% of elementary school teachers and 50% of middle school teachers were satisfied or very satisfied.
Most students described Rowe School as fun, supportive, friendly and safe.
Students and parents mostly agreed on the most important aspects of learning: mathematics, reading and writing, while parents gave higher priority to science aspects.
Elementary school students were most satisfied with reading and arts classes and least satisfied with technology (65%); Adults were most satisfied with physical education and social studies and least satisfied with science (76%).
At junior high, students were most satisfied with self-study physical education (99%), team sports, and arts electives, and least satisfied with engineering/programming (69%).
Middle school adults were the least satisfied with math (73%), but gave high marks for student council, science electives, and history/social studies.
The survey asked an open-ended question about what students, staff and parents wanted to see for the school’s future.
The majority of students wished for improvements in the classroom, such as: For example, more electives, advanced classes, field trips, hands-on projects, outdoor learning, and learning experiences like Science Discovery Day. Some called for fewer rules (particularly around dress codes), but others wanted more supervision during recess and effective discipline for “children who don’t respect other children”.
As for their social goals for the school, they wished for a stop bullying club, the introduction of a buddy system, psychological support and more opportunities to network with one another.
“I think it’s important that schools continue to be a welcoming and friendly place,” wrote a seventh grader. “I would love if some of the courses we take would help us learn even more things for later in life.”
Adults wanted to see improvements in teaching/curriculum, leadership, school climate, and social and emotional learning.
They wanted the school to focus on things like high standards and expectations, excellent and supportive teachers, creative and individualized learning, social skills and a fun and innovative environment. Like the students, they were interested in anti-bullying and in creating a positive student culture that develops the three Rs: responsibility, respect and resilience.
“I believe that finding a happy medium between academic growth and social/emotional growth is incredibly important,” one parent wrote. “After the uncertainty of the pandemic years, I think having a safe place to learn and grow couldn’t be more important.”
RSF School Board President Jee Manghani said the survey results are helpful because they give a good idea of what children and teachers are thinking. Ideally, however, he would like to see more than a third of parents respond. Manghani said it’s important to make sure the fall focus groups reach the other two-thirds of parents who haven’t weighed in.
It was also important to Trustee John Tree that the survey be actionable and that they apply what they had learned to make it more than just a ‘pretty survey’.
Kim agreed that outreach, participation, feedback and community building will be important as they develop the mission, vision and strategic plan going forward.
“We want to have as much involvement as possible because you have to be committed to making it work,” Kim said. “If you don’t have a buy-in, it’s all for nothing.”