The Rancho Santa Fe School District received the results of its annual parent survey and overall parents are satisfied with educational programs, the school’s safety and security, and the positive impact of the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation. Per the survey results, 90 percent of parents are satisfied with their child’s learning environment and 92 percent are satisfied with their student’s progress.
At the June 19 board meeting, Superintendent Donna Tripi said the survey had a fairly high rate of return with 223 responses, a 58 percent response rate.
Here is a look at some of the areas where parents weighed in:
The school environment
In reviewing the school environment, 81 percent agreed that the school emphasizes strong character development and 29 percent disagreed that the discipline policies are fair and consistent.
There were several comments about character development and comments that more social and emotional support is needed than can be provided by the teachers. One suggested that the district hire a full-time counselor while another noted that the district’s social work intern has made a big difference in meeting the needs of students.
“Character and leadership should be emphasized and enforced,” one comment read. “The current culture does not support leadership, hard work or excellence. Students need to be kinder, more caring and less physical with each other on the playground.”
Tripi noted that the district has established an internal social emotional learning committee to review their options and this year they also implemented the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate program at the middle school level.
While 89 percent agreed that the school was safe and secure, there were a few comments about the dark hallways and lack of supervision when students are transitioning and concerns about parents speeding in the parking lot, including one comment that said, “I’m concerned about having sheriffs in the school parking lot to monitor because we can’t keep parents in line.”
Tripi said the district will address those concerns by considering additional supervision in the hallways and the 2019-20 budget includes the purchase of a radar trailer to help monitor speeding in the parking lot.
Echoing some themes that were heard earlier in the school year, the survey also showed parents had concerns about the level of supervision at lunch and on the playground.
According to Tripi, this year the district reviewed its practices with regard to behavioral expectations on the playground and interim assistant principal Megan Loh worked with recess supervisors and teachers to construct expectations, rules for games and consequences for common infractions.
Overall parents were satisfied with the quality of programs such as reading and writing, math and science. Some comments stated that the math program should be more rigorous and that they were happy to hear the district was adopting a new math curriculum this fall.
On the topic of homework, 78 percent agreed that the amount given to students is appropriate.
Responses represented a variety of perspectives: That homework feels like busy work and that it is too easy, some said it is unnecessary and others said it should be nightly.
Reviewing the district’s programs, there were come comments that parents were unsure that technology investments have made a positive impact and some felt that technology is a distraction for students.
Tripi said the district has received feedback that it should establish an internal technology committee to look at best practices and new technology.
“We did hear that maybe we don’t need a 1:1 in K-2, we have to look at it,” Tripi said.
The impact of the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation (RSFEF)
The RSFEF contribution of $1.2 million for the 2018-2019 school year represents 9.4 percent of the district’s operating budget and is the second largest revenue source after property taxes. This year’s contribution includes $171,000 from the endowment fund, which is currently valued at over $5 million.
Per the survey, 87 percent made a donation to the foundation this school year and most respondents were aware of the foundation’s impacts which include keeping class sizes small, enrichment programs and the 27 educational and family events put on by a team of parent volunteers.
Of those who did not contribute, nine respondents said they did not participate due to financial reasons, and three said they did not because they do not believe in private funding for a public school.
Additional comments about why people chose not to contribute included being disappointed with cutbacks, already having contributed in the past and that “money is not used to support all children, just high-profile classes like robotics.”
In regard to questions about what the foundation provides, one comment was interested in what happened to Ocean Week.
Tripi said that the school still does the ocean curriculum but they no longer have the week of activities and guest speakers—fourth graders still learn about the kelp forest, third graders learn about wetlands at San Dieguito River Park and San Elijo Lagoon, and fifth graders still work with Scripps Institute of Oceanography’s floating labs.
As the board discussed on June 19, the make-up of the foundation will change next school year as the district accepted a letter of resignation from development director Barbara Edwards. Tripi said they are hoping to get a replacement by August although they have decided to reduce the position to a half-time position, focusing primarily on fundraising and not on running social events.
Both Tripi and RSF School Board President Sarah Neal thanked Edwards for her dedication to the district.
“She did a wonderful job for us the last four years and she is a loss for our district,” Tripi said.