EACS Audit Results: District Members Have Bad Perception

By Maureen Mespell
By Rachel Martin

May 14, 2012 Updated May 14, 2012 at 11:44 PM EDT

NEW HAVEN, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – East Allen County Schools released the results of a district-wide “environmental” audit, and the results were not good.

"Perception is reality” – That was the theme at Monday night’s special board meeting for East Allen County Schools (EACS). The results of a district-wide environmental audit were shared at the meeting, and they weren’t very good. In fact, some board members referred to the results as “brutal” and “harsh.”

Neil Reynolds, EACS School Board President, stated at the beginning of the meeting that it was an “executive session held in public” and that it was “not intended to be a public forum or discussion.” Dr. Daryl Yost, the consultant hired to do the audit, said it was an audit based on perception, not research or fact. He said the audit was an effort to help “EACS be the very best for the students it served.” Terry Jo Lightfoot, EACS Board Vice-President, said the district’s been making a lot of changes, and they audit was conducted to get feedback.

Since Oct. 2011, Yost talked with 909 employees, parents, tax payers and constituents, and conducted 205 focus groups. Through those focus groups, conferences, and emails, the results showed that people are not happy with the current school board and superintendent and how they run the district. Initially board members seemed surprised, and Dr. Karyle Green appeared upset and would not comment on the results.

Yost focused on five statistical perceptions, but the overall perception is participants are not satisfied with the district's leadership. They say administrators make them feel “demeaned” and “undervalued,” and are perceived as “negatively confrontational.” Participants say they felt the administrations tried to incorporate too many “special initiatives”, but could not successfully follow through with them. As for the school board, participants say they do not represent the district as a whole, or understand its governing role. Despite the feedback, board members say they're glad they found out.

“It is ok for people to be upset and to tell us things, that they're really having trouble working with kids,” Lightfoot said. “And to see what things are getting perceived and what things are fact.”

Other issues were transportation, student-teacher collaboration within the classroom and curriculum, and EACS’ role in economic development within the community.

“It’s better to know and to fix than it is not to know,” said Lightfoot. “We’ll be a much better district after listening to some of these and being able to address the ones that need to be addressed. And, just getting out and educating people on things we are doing that they don’t realize we are.”

Lightfoot says the school board needs to find better ways of communicating to district members. “[We need] to go at it little by little and find out ways to communicate where we know people will find out the information or go to find out the information.”

Some good perceptions the audit showed were that participants are happy with the push of technology and iPads in the classrooms, as well as the diversity of the district. However, they did suggest creating a system-wide plan on diversity awareness.

“You cannot make anything better unless you see what needs are there,” said Lightfoot.

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