Mark Petersen can't read minds, but he's working on it.
Dr. Petersen, the superintendent of McDuffie County Schools, has created online surveys to learn what parents, students, employees and citizens think about school-related issues.
Dr. Petersen said in the past he has sent out surveys that he had to type and compile all the data himself. When the school system's new web site went online in November, Dr. Petersen said he created the online surveys.
"The bottom line is that we need to be able to reach out to our parents, kind of get their thoughts. And in the mumbo-jumbo fast-paced world that we are, not all the folks can come in and give us their thoughts," Dr. Petersen said. "We spent a good bit of money on the Web page so we can do a lot of different stuff, and I'm going to use it."
Dr. Petersen said the new survey is a "customer satisfaction kind of thing." The survey has 22 questions with five multiple-choice answers ranging from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree." The survey assesses everything from how well informed parents feel to their perception of learning opportunities and the availability of the administration.
An additional calendar-input survey offers six questions with choices for the date of the first and last days of school and the length of holiday breaks. So far, 171 persons have offered input on the calendar survey, the superintendent said.
"(The majority) of responders are employees, but the answers are all over the board. We're never going to get everybody satisfied, but I want to hear what they've got to say," Dr. Petersen said.
The surveys allow the responder to remain anonymous and the software compiles the data automatically for Dr. Petersen's review.
"It compiles it for me, it comes to me, and I can't tell who it is," he said. "I don't care who it is. That's not what I want; I want their thoughts."
Not only does Dr. Petersen want to read parent comments, but he said he wants to hear from board of education employees too. A survey also is available for staff members to critique their administrators, and there is a survey for each administrator.
"We run our schools by data - our tests data, and so forth; and here we are evaluating administrators. I'm not with the principals all day; I don't know what they do. So looking on the Internet, I can ask our people to help me see an administrator through their eyes and give me a third perspective on their performance," he said.
The questions or topics of the surveys will change about four times throughout the year.
"I'm just trying to be responsive to the public. ... Here's a way I can start gathering input from the public," Dr. Petersen said.