School leaders interact with hundreds of people from all walks of life within their community. All those people have slightly different needs and interests in the decisions made. Those stakeholder groups include, but are not limited, to:
School Board Leaders - You report to school board leaders who are elected by your community and have an expectation to represent the best interests of the staff, students, parents, and the community by guiding your decisions.
Staff - You supervise a staff dedicated to serving students daily. They expect your support in their daily practice with students, dealing with parents, their compensation and benefits, and their working conditions.
Students - Your efforts with staff have a direct or indirect impact on their efforts with students and your policy decisions directly impact students daily. Students are the #1 reason you wake up and do what you do every day.
Parents - You serve the parents who expect your leadership and decision-making to meet the needs of their children and their support of the learning taking place in your district’s schools.
Community Members - Your community wants to have a strong school system. However, they also expect careful and responsible spending, given their taxes pay a significant portion of the budget.
How Assumptions Can Develop
As a district leader, you are the critical person who can make impactful decisions on behalf of the key stakeholder groups we identified above. So, naturally, a variety of people from each of those stakeholder groups feel compelled to give you their “two-cents worth” and tell you what decisions you should make. If you hear those opinions enough over time, you may begin to assume that “everyone” feels that way, particularly when the people representing that group tell you that “everyone” feels that way.
The Danger of Assumptions
If school leaders make decisions based on the assumption that “everyone” feels a certain way, a lot of time, effort, and money can be at risk if that is not truly the case. Leaders need to ask themselves:
Am I sure “everyone” feels that way? How do I know? How can I check to be sure?
An Illustration of Both Sides of Assumptions
During intermission of a band concert in our 25-year-old “Gymatorium,” a parent approached me and said, “If you ever get the chance to ask this community to build an auditorium that provides band and choir has their own place to perform, you might be surprised at the support you would have.” This got my wheels turning a bit. A few months later our board committee was mulling the capital improvement questions we were going to ask on our School Perceptions survey. I mentioned the idea of asking about support for an auditorium. A longtime board member commented, “There’s no point in asking the question, I know this community will never support building an auditorium.” Thirty months later, we had a grand opening for a beautiful 810-seat performing arts center and were able to devote our gym space to athletics full-time. Don’t assume…survey.
How School Perceptions Can Help
Our community, staff, student, and parent surveys provide a means to ask “everyone” how they truly feel about any domain your district is planning around. We provide a high-tech and confidential means to reach every stakeholder you serve, and we empower you to give everyone a voice and provide them the opportunity to tell you how they feel. This will allow you to make decisions that are truly based on the majority opinion of stakeholders.
At School Perceptions, we would be thrilled to partner with you in making decisions regarding all the informal input you receive and assumptions that can develop over time. We will help you confirm or refute the assumptions you hear, so you can make better decisions based on the feelings of the majority of the people you serve. Let us help you ask the tough questions, so you know how the stakeholder groups you serve truly feel.
The School Perceptions Blog and Resource Center features the voices of our team members. This post was written by Daren Sievers, Project Manager.