Fiddling While Rome Burns

Those of you who read Jonathan Laughlin’s blog or read the Grand Rapids Press already know about the school situation. Basically, the local Christian school system is going to close one school, move it’s students to other schools and move the school that my daughter (and Jonathan’s kids) go to around 15-30 minutes from here (depending on traffic).

Since hearing the news Kristen or I have been to around 5 meetings (possibly more) on the subject. There’s been some talk about trying to convince the board to move our school (since it will be moved inevitably) someplace closer. Wherever the school moves, it will be housed in a building that is already being occupied by another Christian school.

What’s unfortunate is that the nearby school has less space if our school grows and is in an older building. The school that’s far from here has larger playground space, much more room for our school to grow, and is a much newer building.

Thus the school that the board picked is the better choice except for the location. The location very much increases the chance that people will decide that they don’t want to drive their kids there, possibly killing the school. When you consider that the school has been growing by 20% a year in recent years, you can understand both why one would be concerned about the relative lack of space at the nearby school and how one might be frustrated about the idea of moving the school to an area where it might not grow.

Over the last couple parent meetings, the leadership of the parent group began to ask if there was anyone who had experience in writing and analyzing surveys. As it happens I’ve got a couple degrees in sociology and spent five years working at a market research firm that’s now part of Harris Interactive.

I wasn’t there that night, but Kristen volunteered me.

Thus, in the midst of this whole depressing mess, I got to do something that’s kind of fun. I got to help another parent (a former town planner with similar skills) write a survey. Actually, she had the majority of the survey already written and I made a few suggestions regarding questions and a little on language.

Then we had to write a cover letter for the survey. This was less fun. The goal being to summarize the strengths and weaknesses in such a way that it doesn’t offend anybody or sway people to answer in one direction or the other.

As we were sitting in the school library working, a teacher came in an let us know that the school was locked up and that the alarm would automatically turn on in an hour. This was no big deal since we figured we would be done by then.

Just as we were finishing up the first draft, we realized that the alarm would come on in five minutes. “I wonder,” I commented, ” whether the alarms are synchronized with the clocks on the wall or whether they’re a bit fast?”

We emailed the draft immediately after that. I literally ran across the room to turn off the lights in the library and we left the building.

The goal of the survey (for those of you who are wondering) is to find out what school people would prefer Evergreen move to and what issues cause them to have that preference. Hopefully it will do a good job.

Whether or not it does, I had a good time working on it.

2 thoughts on “Fiddling While Rome Burns”

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