10 Responses to “Demographics and Opinion Research and Community Discussions, oh my!”

  1. Karen Says:

    How come nobody is aggregating the written responses?! I don’t get it. I really don’t. Any high school class around town need a hands-on experience in qualitiative data coding? It’s not complicated. Time-consuming, yes. Pass it off to the students, just as is done in college labs everywhere. Prepare for that post-secondary education, kids. 🙂 How did this not get included in the data plan . Community members could sit down and do this, but, my guess is Unit 4 would reject that if they weren’t in ‘Education'<<< 'Education' so very badly needs to get past that. But, that's another rant for another day.

    I continue to maintain that there is NO WAY the work Dejong and Fallon are doing couldn't have been done by local people. NO WAY. Perhaps it's the RFP thing. I ran the school choice (replacement for Alve$) thing by a self-employed consultant a while back and he said it was something he and/or one of his underlings would be interested in, but, the RFP did not appear inviting of anybody outside of 'education' (even though the most suitable person for such a technical/statistical undertaking woulb very very likely be outside of the field of Education—-that might make things too objective though–there is a definite social agenda/ideology Alves promotes in his methods). The person I asked is not local, but, this is ONE guy I as ONE person know from 15+ years ago in a grad school context. There are many more just like him in this college town, no doubt.

    And the either/or stuff whittles down things to an end-point 'consensus' that we are told we wanted. Sometimes we are puzzled by what we are told we wanted because it sort of doesn't capture it and/or 'add up.' I think it depends upon what is asked and when (in the process) it is asked. This is a 'steering' of sorts, indeed. 🙂 Many (overall) preferences getted knocked out in the early rounds of feedback when the either/or dichotomy format is used. The questions asked and the timing of their asking can be quite strategic. As a very simplified and possibly not logical example (I apologize if my current cognitive issues make this nonsensical), let's say pizza goes head-to-head with McDonald's for lunch choices in Round 1 of feedback from students. Pizza wins. Then in Round 2 Pizza goes against El Toro. El Torro wins. The top 2 choices are deemed Pizza and El Toro so alternate Friday fun lunches will be done with those 2 places, even though were kids asked to rank 1, 2, 3, McDonald's would have been found to be preferred over El Torro. Or something… 🙂 The gist being, if it makes any sense at all, that El Torro never went up against McDonald's in the either/or dichotomy way of asking the food pref questions because it got knocked out in an early round. Won't Dejong be coming back at the 'community' with another questionnaire based upon the results of this first questionnaire that will have knocked off certain 'options' due to the way questions were asked (either/or, as an example)? Isn't that their 'process' with other School Districts? And won't certain (new) either/or pairings not going head-to-head the first time be offered even though one item of the new pairing is less preferred than an item that was knocked out in the initial questionnaire. I know this is supposed to funnel things down through the spout to a 'consensus.' But, so much can get filtered out by this process just so we can get a tidy thing that says 'consensus' on it, even though people are left with feeling like: 'Well, if you had asked…blah blah blah…I would have said this/that.' 'Had you asked B vs. G and not B vs. T, I would have said…' You can only choose from what they present you. Worded differently or obtaining the information through different methods oftens yields very different results.

    I am sort of fearful in a Stephen Leacock-esque kind of way that key (what fits with Unit 4's 'agenda'/vision) student data obtained by the professional consultants on this matter will be conflated to 'voice of the community' status the further away from the original source the responses get because the Steering Committee just kind of sat there listening and not really critically thinking about the valence of responses relative to the sources (kid vs. adult)Sunshine Sketches of a Little School District?

    Bob Knight sounds concerning. Can observers attend future meetings of this Steering Committee?

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    @karen: Much of what you have covered in your post was relayed during the Tuesday Houlihans meeting. Pattsi was having quite a fit. 🙂 However, I did not observe any clear “take aways” from that interaction – what are we going to do with it now?

    As to the comparison of Dr. Alves and going local, I also brought that up at Houlihans; I contacted four local companies and put them in touch with Dr. Wiegand. Each of them was interested in doing something with the Choice solution. However, the Unit 4 attorney totally squashed it by writing an RFP that was specific to Alves. It is going to be that much tougher to go back to those four companies and ask them to try again. I have asked Dr. Wiegand and the board to sit down with these companies to draft a new RFP. So far, I am not aware of any progress in that direction. All this to point out how Unit 4 “traditionally” does things.

    Or another thing that came up at Houlihans; Scott and Stepahnie spent a large number of hours transcribing questionnaires into text. This could easily have been done by students (as you mentioned). My point in bringing these to the surface is that somehow we have to get Unit 4 to think local for all things first. I don’t know exactly how to do that.

    PS – Bob Knight is much more popular than Bruce Knight. 🙂

  3. charlesdschultz Says:

    @Karen: Yes, anyone can attend the steering team meetings. But like I said, it is a little weird. 🙂 I think it is worth going just to see who the group is and they do, since they ultimately will be shaping the options that we develop over the next year and vote on in 2014.

    Scott posted the presentation shared at the last Steering Team meeting (has some interesting charts derived from the Excel spreadsheet):

    As a recent update, I have also asked for a way to email the entire committee so that they public can voice their opinions directly to the entire steering team. I have also asked for more opportunities for the public to engage the team directly, either at a steering team meeting or at a special event designed for two-way deliberation (over and above the Community Discussion that is already being planned for February).

  4. pattsi Says:

    To clarify my concerns expressed during the brain storming session at Houlihan’s:
    1. According to the explanation, the questions used in the paper survey and online survey were generated based on the two focus groups, consisting of a total of 18 paid individuals as random representation of Unit 4 taxpayers.
    2. When I read the schedule of questions, it is very clear that the questions are not well formulated to eliminate bias in how one would answer them.
    3. The data from these 3 approaches is being aggregated. This obliterates any potential differentiation within the participating populations.
    4, The online survey responses are highly skewed since a large percentage of respondents are students. Question to be asked is why so many student respondents–extra credit, told to take survey, etc.
    5. Process to notify citizens about the online survey was a bit limited for those who are not presently involved with Unit 4.
    6. There was no attempt to engage students in any of the private schools to take the online survey. So this sample population is basically missing.
    7. There was no pretesting of the survey questions to check for validity and reliability.
    8. All of this is very important because these responses are being used as the foundation of the report that will lead to siting the high school.
    9. A concern that I have is when I pointed out these survey methodology issues, it was mentioned that this project is not for a peer reviewed research article. My response is that the use of these pieces of collected data/information are going to be used to leverage a multi-million dollar project via a referendum and using tax payer dollars. From this perspective, the work of the consultant is even more important than a peer-reviewed research article.

  5. Karen Says:

    WOW. They said that ‘this project is not for a peer reviewed research article’?! Well, let’s just go ahead and ask Bob Knight 🙂 (thanks for catching that Charles) then what we should do if all this ‘research’ stuff (sound methodology and all that) the ‘research’ people were hired to do is thrown by the wayside by the actual ‘research’ people.

  6. charlesdschultz Says:

    Just noticed this Dilbert comic (from Dec 19th):

  7. pattsi Says:

    A HOME RUN!!!!!!!!!

  8. Steve Says:

    Being involved within the building/construction industry for over 20 years, I’d say the following about your perspectives. Although I was not in attendance at any of the Steering committee sessions, it sounds like one of two things are happening:
    1) Either DeJong-Richter is not very competent at what they do – a plausible possibility
    2) The school district already knows what they have in mind and are taking the Dilbert comic approach from charlesdschultz’ post above – they are simply using that firm as a facade of due diligence. I have met Dr. Wiegand in the past and felt that she is more than competent for the position. Given that, I don’t think she would be spending $114k of our taxpayers’ money to purchase an out-of-town puppet. Meaning it is likely choice #1.

    One thing to consider that you could bring up to the school board, Dr. Wiegand, or at a future steering committee session: architectural firms also do master planning and do it very cheaply. I know we have used Cannon and BLDD architects for projects in the past, but two other great firms that I know of are:

    -ITTNER ARCHITECTS: Office located in Springfield, IL they specialize in everything education and have great references on their website: http://www.ittnerarchitects.com. They just designed the Mahomet-Seymour early childhood building. I have seen some of their master planning projects and they are dead on!

    -SAPP DESIGN: A Springfield, MO based firm (still closer than where DeJong-Richter is located) that did some amazing work with the Joplin tornado disaster. They too have a very polished website: http://www.sdaarchitects.com/. I have not seen a master plan from them but I know they have some available.

    I think we should spread the word about these two architects and try to get one involved. Having an architect involved can either take over the entire master planning process, or help influence Dejong to be more independent.

    That’s just my two cents. I hope it helps.

  9. charlesdschultz Says:


    Thanks for dropping by. FYI, Pattsi Petrie is a retired Urban Planner and has often points out how badly the district needs a true planner on their team; right now, (as you probably already know) the district utilizes the services of a City-employed planner, which some argue is not working out well. I agree, the school district needs some help in terms of finding and retaining a long-term planning approach. However, I personally believe we can find folks who are even more local than Springfield – for instance, we have an entire College of Education sitting in our backyard. Not to mention a slew of other departments at our fine world-class research educational institution.

    As to your other points, I am not of sufficient experience to say whether or not Dejong is incompetent or the district is throwing a bag over our eyes. What I try to do is take what I hear from others (like yourself) and assimilate these comments into suggestions I make to the board. On that note, how would you suggest I integrate your thoughts about master planning into the context of Future Facilities? How does master planning impact the ongoing research and work of DeJong, given their stated goals of finding a high school site and preparing a 2014 tax referendum?

  10. Steve Says:

    Charles – I completely agree that we are in a great area, having the resources of the University at our fingertips. I don’t want to sound biased towards architects or anything, but I would still recommend finding an architect to have some part in the planning efforts and here is why:
    1. They have a more in-depth understanding on how to tie in the design with the need’s of the community and shave off a lot of potential costs. I was on a project where the architect found a way to design an expansion to a building vs developing a whole new building and it saved the client a few million dollars. We wouldn’t have known that without their help.
    2. A lot of times, going with an architect for the master planning process is actually cheaper which going against common thought. Here is why: the architects want to be the ones who design the buildings (larger $ fee), therefore they usually provide the master planning efforts for below cost so that they are awarded design responsibilities. Many architects have this in their contracts too, something like “if we do the master planning and there are no issues with that process, we will be selected to design what ever work results thereafter”.

    Again, these are just some thoughts based on my experience, but every situation is unique and it depends on the needs of both the district and the community on what approach to take. Either way, there are a lot of good things coming for this district!

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