With information gathered from 400 phone calls and 369 surveys, the Brainerd School Board now has a better understanding of what the community wants.
Russell and Herder Advertising/Public Relations representatives presented the research findings Tuesday to the Brainerd School Board.
The board hired the Brainerd firm last spring to determine community opinions in regard to the district's needs and priorities.
"You can have all the plans in the world," said Carol Russell of Russell and Herder. "But you need voter support to make it work."
Less than 50 percent of those surveyed have a child enrolled in the district. The majority of those surveyed who have a child enrolled in the district have an elementary student. Fifty percent of the people have a personal friend who works for the district.
Russell and Herder also surveyed district staff via e-mail. A total of 814 questionnaires were sent and 45 percent responded. Of those surveyed, less than 50 percent of the employees have a child enrolled in the district. Eighty-seven percent are registered voters.
About 37 percent of respondents claim they have an above average knowledge of services and programs the district offers while 32 percent said they have a below average knowledge.
Of the district staff surveyed, 66 percent felt knowledgeable about the district's services and programs.
Fifty-one percent of residents surveyed and 59 percent of staff believe the quality of the district has a direct impact on the success of area economic development efforts.
Close to 65 percent of the community and 81 percent of the district staff strongly believe that providing funding to maintain, repair or construct school facilities is the responsibility of all taxpayers in the district -- not just those with children.
When it comes to voting for a property tax increase, 59 percent would approve initiatives to enhance student safety; 59 percent would support repairs and maintenance of existing buildings; 56 percent would approve giving students greater access to technology; and 55 percent would support greater efficiency in building air quality.
Issues that received less support from voters were construction of more classroom space, more adult continuing education opportunities and greater space for performing arts.
District employees were asked what they would support in a ballot question. About 82 percent supported construction of more classroom space; 73 percent supported greater efficiency in building air quality; 67 percent supported initiatives to enhance student safety; 56 percent supported greater student access to technology; and 55 percent supported the repair and maintenance of existing buildings.
Russell said of all the respondents who were surveyed, more females than males were interested in school programs and would support the issues with a ballot vote. She also found that people who have children in the district were more supportive.
Russell made several recommendations to the board about the survey results. She said the district is going to have to communicate to the key markets of all ages, which receive information in different ways. Older people tend to receive information from the newspaper and people with children prefer the school's newsletter or mail sent to their home.
Russell said the most powerful way to get messages to people is word of mouth, so involving the district staff in community outreach efforts is important.
Technology and student safety are important issues and Russell said the board should highlight the positive impact the schools make on economic development.
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