Surveys taken by Madison students, teachers and parents in the spring as a way to look at the "culture and climate" in borough schools found "some frequency of bullying," but also responses that showed the school community was learning what to do about it, according to a presentation by co-directors of a United Way program that plans to analyze the surveys and work with schools on ways to improve school culture.
Survey results also showed "great school connectedness," indicating people identified with their schools and parents felt welcome.
"Hopefulness" scores also were quite high, Liz Warner and Dr. Patricia Heindel, a psychologist at the College of St. Elizabeth, said in a presentation at Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting.
The presenters said they plan to review the data with each school's safety team starting next week, and then school teams, including students and parents, can develop their own plans to improve the culture and climate.
Creating a safe school environment that fosters emotional and social development is crucial for students' success, they said.
Warner and Heindel said they resist sharing data for school-by-school comparisons because doing so would change the tenor of the program.
In other districts, some programs schools implemented as a result of the process have included students serving coffee and tea to bus drivers, having seniors from the community greet people in a school, and opening a school store.
Mainly, schools develop a communications plan to ensure they're consistently communicating important messages, they said.
Some Madison school board members asked for more information about the survey results and what happens through the process. Some said there was a feeling information that could help them in their oversight of the district was being withheld.
Board member Dave Arthur said the board is interested in the whole health of the school community, and is not looking to zero in on any particular statistic. He said he had concerns about the evaluation and improvement process unfolding unsupervised.
The presenters said the discussions and programs happen at the school level, and they "don't want to be top-down."
Board of Education Vice President Pat Rowe said administrators eventually could come to the board with requests for program funding or policy revisions.
Resident Steve Wells said the example of opening a school store shows the importance of having the school board looped in.
"You just used as an example setting up a school store," he said. "That is something that it strikes me would be of interest on a number of levels to the senior administration and the Board of Ed," including operational concerns, medical concerns over allergies, and legal liability.
The presenters said schools follow the appropriate chain of command.
Board member Shade Grahling said principals would be involved.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi said the process for the United Way Program wasn't outlined clearly enough for the board initially and "doesn't seem as natural as it might otherwise."
Board member Tom Haralampoudis said some survey questions and answers seemed "duplicitous" and the survey did not include a way to give feedback on it.