How do parents feel about the Rochester school district?

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The Rochester school district has had a tenuous relationship with parents for years. Almost every superintendent in recent memory has made some kind of an effort to improve relations between parents, teachers, and school administrators. But success has been illusive and varied depending on the school.

The district’s Office of Parent Engagement is making a new effort with a Parent Participation Survey that can be found on the district’s website. It’s about 23 questions long and shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to complete. The survey can be taken from now until Friday, June 7. And on Friday, June 14, the results will be posted on the district’s website.

How the survey will be used is vague. And the questions are fairly general and designed to gauge the level of respondents' participation, and how respondents feel about their children's school and the school district.

Here are some shortened versions of the questions:

"Do you feel welcomed? Do the school’s policies respect and value diversity? Are students treated fairly? Are teachers easy to reach and do they keep you informed?"

You get the idea.

Some parents have complained bitterly over the years that their attempts to become involved are thwarted by school officials or teachers. The district’s interest in parental involvement has been a passive-aggressive game, they say — honest feedback isn’t welcomed.

Whether the survey will change any minds is hard to say, and I’m not sure we’ll learn anything. Adding a few questions that dig a little deeper, asking for some specifics, might be more productive.

For instance, I would like to know how long it takes for teachers to return calls. By the end of the day? The next day? More than 48 hours?

And instead of asking people whether they “feel” welcome in a school or at a PTA meeting, they might have asked if they were greeted when they went to the front office? Did the person talking to them make eye contact?

And with respect to some questions, how does a parent know if students in a school are all treated fairly?

None of these picky points are reason enough to skip the survey, but if the district is going to engage parents, start with an engaging survey.

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