Survey shows mixed results

Southold school officials need to redouble their efforts to communicate with taxpayers who don’t have students in the district. That’s one conclusion Superintendent David Gamberg drew from a survey of taxpayers that shows “clearly there’s a chunk of people who aren’t completely happy” with the district, he said.

But he cautioned against drawing a lot of conclusions from data that he said was questionable. For example, some respondents said they attend district events at least once a month. But the district doesn’t have that many events, Mr. Gamberg said.

Surveys went out during the school year to 878 people who have voted in school district elections in the past two years and 211 responded.

Board president Paulette Ofrias said some people don’t tend to respond unless they are dissatisfied.

While 39 percent agreed with the statement that they were happy with the information they had received from the district and 23 percent disagreed, 38 percent of respondents didn’t agree or disagree. Mr. Gamberg concluded that more efforts need to be made to reach out to these taxpayers.

“We do have to redouble our efforts to reach out to these people who come to the polls,” Mr. Gamberg said. “I believe this is a group that wants that kind of communication.”

At the same time, board member Judi Fouchet pointed out that the surveys had gone out before Mr. Gamberg had conducted some of his outreach efforts. The surveys were sent out in December 2009 and returned the following month.

Respondents expressed dissatisfaction with how the district was managing its funds, with only 25 percent voicing approval, while 38 percent indicated they didn’t think money was being well managed. But 58 percent thought Southold offers a quality education while 26 percent disagreed.

On the issue of school consolidation, 79 percent said they would favor a feasibility study. When parents were surveyed about consolidation, the results released last January showed 127 parents didn’t favor such a study while 94 did.

In the survey of taxpayers without children in the district, interest in a feasibility study dropped slightly if it was going to be an expense for taxpayers. Thirty-five percent favored the study if grant money could be obtained. Only 21 percent wanted the study if it was going to cost the district $10,000 and only 13 percent were willing to fund a study that would cost up to $30,000. Nevertheless 31 percent favored the study at any cost.

With few respondents expressing familiarity with the district’s website, Mr. Gamberg said it might behoove the board to consider authorizing “old-fashioned newsletters” to inform the public about school events and activities.

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