The administration has repeatedly referenced the online survey as proof that the people prefer Option B. DeKalb Schools administration has now changed their tune saying the online survey was never intended to count votes.
REALLY ?? Because when I asked at the last board meeting why we didn’t go with a Doraville cluster, Dan Drake replied that when the votes came in the, input was for building additions.
The public participated in an online survey from Aug 23 – Sept 16 to “state preferences, rank options, and leave written comments” (secondary school study recommendations pg 11). The survey asked if the participant preferred A) a new Doraville Cluster, B) Building additions at existing schools, or C) Moving the magnet … and why.
Up until Sept 14, 70% of the participants selected Option A, a new Doraville Cluster. On Sept 15, school councils started sending out school newsletters asking the community go to “an online survey and select Option B”.
Was the support of the school councils representative of an organic desire for Option B? Or was something else at play?
Turns out some school council members had been courted by planning staff at the school district and mesmerized by the razzle dazzle talk of upgrades to aging sports, art, band, etc. facilities. As any good salesman knows, you sell the sizzle. After buying the sizzle, some schools councils turned around and told their communities to support Option B. There was no community or school wide discussion about what was in Option B or its implications. Those communities proceeded to the online survey and repeatedly voted for Option B and in two days, the support for Option B went from 21% to 51% (allegedly).
This begs the question from many people including me:
Question: There are valid concerns that many people voted multiple times in the Secondary Facilities Study Survey sited as being one of the reasons the school district administration went with Option B. Were multiple entries from the same people parsed out of the final total? How was that done?
Response from Mr. Joshua Williams (DeKalb Schools COO): The online survey, in addition to the written feedback from the public meetings and the 20 positions statements from the school councils, PTAs, and foundations, was intended to help the District and Board capture the themes of public sentiment regarding the three options presented during the Secondary School Study. The online survey simply captured the qualitative responses from the public and was not intended nor used as a voting mechanism.
This response is telling us the survey was useless. The district did not take steps to design the survey to prevent multiple votes, nor did they parse the data to determine the real volume of support for each option. If somebody votes 1000 times, its in the totals as 1000 separate votes. There is, furthermore, no way for the district to tell if 20 people said 20 different things or 1 person made 20 different points.
LET ME COUNT THE WAYS the vote total was used to justify the decision. Also known as, if it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck and that duck voted.
Key Takeaways from Public Input on Three Options:
Page 18 says, “The survey results show an overall preference for B (51 percent) over Option A (45 percent) and Option C (4.5 percent)” with this image on page 16
That looks like counting “votes” to me. We know that anyone could vote as many times as they wanted to.
11/07 – Project List and Community Input Presentation
Question from Stan Jester: The consultants said at the public meetings there was overwhelming support for a new Sequoyah area high school. If everybody wanted the Doraville cluster, why didn’t we do that?
Dan Drake: We had an online survey and early on there was a strong push for the Doraville cluster. As the process went on and the votes came in, the input swung to a desire to increase the size of our existing schools and not create a new cluster.
One Person – One Vote
At the community input sessions, as the consultants put it, “Overwhelming support for Option A among those who indicated a preference”. Interestingly, when everybody only got one vote, the community supported Option A by 70%
I don’t think we can have it both ways. It seems like the school district asked for everyone’s input and told us that the input shows overwhelming support for something. They actually used the words “votes” and “overall preference.” Nevermind that planning officials were working in the back room to influence the outcome. When deficiencies in the survey were questioned, especially that the survey could be so easily manipulated, we were told that the survey was “qualitative” and “not intended as a voting mechanism”.
Any use of the survey results as evidence of a preference for anything doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. If the school district truly intends to get public input, they should create a survey not susceptible to manipulation. They should also involve the broader community of residents, taxpayers, county, and city officials.
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