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Building Consensus

by Jay Miller

Questionnaires on the 2016 Levy Proposal

The week’s column provides an update on efforts by the Building Consensus Research Committee to identify reasons voters did not approve the 2016 Excess Levy proposal to rebuild county school facilities.

In recent weeks, our committee has been meeting with civic associations around Pocahontas County to conduct focus groups; additional focus groups are scheduled for early May. Each focus group starts with attendees completing a brief questionnaire to gauge their support (or lack of) for the five major purposes contained in the ballot measure; the questionnaire also allows respondents to provide comments regarding the reasons they voted for or against the proposal.

During the last week of March, teachers and aides in the schools were given the opportunity to complete the questionnaire and provide comments. Approximately 130 questionnaires were distributed by the Faculty Senate presidents at each of the five county schools. More than half were returned – a good response rate for a voluntary survey. In coming weeks, we will conduct a mail survey of current and retired school system employees (other than active teachers) to record their responses to the same questionnaire. While this project is not intended to focus solely on school employees, we recognize that they represent the largest bloc of voters in the county – and people who work in the schools tend to move public opinion on issues such as proposed excess levies.

In addition, we will mail the questionnaire to approximately 200 county residents who were randomly selected from the list of voters in the 2016 election. (The voter list is a public record.) Depending on the response rate for this survey, we may need to do an additional mailing to ensure that we are sampling a broad cross-section of county voters.

By using the same questionnaire for all respondents, we will be able to tabulate consistent data and see whether patterns emerge suggesting why the levy proposal failed. We plan to have all data collected by mid-May and expect to report our findings by late June or early July.

We are trying to ensure that individual respondents are not duplicated by overlapping membership in the groups we are sampling. For example, a school teacher could belong to a civic association hosting a focus group, and also be randomly selected from the voter list for the mail survey. We realize our efforts to prevent duplication may not be perfect despite our best effort. If you receive a questionnaire in the mail and have already responded through a previous forum, please do not submit the questionnaire again. Because the questionnaires are anonymous we have no way of knowing who is actually responding; we only know who we asked to participate in the survey.

Note to readers: This project is being conducted by a group of county residents; it is not affiliated with the Board of Education or the Superintendent’s office; all expenses are borne by committee members.

You may contact Jay Miller at jvmiller2008@ or by calling 304-653-4195.

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