Upper Arlington News

School notes

Survey supports district plans for efficiency project

By PAUL IMHOFF
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Each new year brings with it a round of well-intentioned resolutions, which are often infamous for their lack of staying power.

I thought this would be a perfect time to update the community on one resolution that continues to be here for the long haul: an increased focus on efficiency in our school district.

In August, we launched the Upper Arlington Efficiency Project. Our goal is to improve the district's bottom line by $4.5 million by the summer of 2017.

We will reach this goal by using technology, shared services and creative thinking, while maintaining our ongoing, relentless commitment to providing exceptional educational experiences for our students.

As plans for the project began to come together, we quickly realized that community input would be essential to this process. We have a knowledgeable, supportive and engaged community in Upper Arlington and we understood clearly that we had to reach out for input in a way that made it convenient for residents to respond.

In late October, we opened the Efficiency Project Survey, a short, online survey that was accessible from the district website and was made available in paper format in several locations across town. The survey remained open for two weeks, and we were gratified to gather nearly 1,900 complete responses.

We began with some basic questions to gauge the community's feelings on different aspects of our operations. We were pleased to see that the vast majority of respondents had very positive reviews of the quality of education in our district, as well as our parent communication and security procedures.

When we asked about the district's fiscal efficiency, the results were less stellar. While 59 percent of respondents gave us a good or excellent rating, 23 percent rated the district's fiscal efficiency as fair and 9 percent rated it poor.

Treasurer Andrew Geistfeld and I spent a lot of time meeting with residents this fall, and this was a theme that came up many times. When you combine that feedback with the results of the survey, it is clear that now is the right time for the efficiency project.

Perhaps the most important part of the survey was the open-ended question that allowed residents to make their own suggestions for efficiency measures. About half of our respondents took us up on the opportunity to share their thoughts about the district. Some were very kind and complimentary; others were very direct.

The main themes discussed included a call for increased use of technology, the reduction of paper waste, the number of administrators and our teachers' salaries and benefits.

Reading through the comments was very worthwhile. The feedback echoed many of the ideas we have heard in our meetings with community members, and again, supports the fact that now is the right time for the efficiency project.

Over the next few months, we will be working diligently with our parent advisory group and the private-sector experts on our Efficiency Task Force to implement cost-savings measures and create long-term cost-avoidance plans. You can follow our work on our website, www.uaschools.org. We'll be posting updates on our progress throughout the year.

Even though our survey is closed, we're still listening. If you would like to provide feedback on an efficiency issue or another topic in our schools, please email me at superintendent@uaschools.org.

Paul Imhoff is superintendent of the Upper Arlington school district.

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