Budget survey planned for Saranac Lake schools

SARANAC LAKE – The Saranac Lake Central School District will use a survey again as part of its budget-crafting process for the 2014-15 school year.

The online survey, which school officials used for the first time last year, is designed to help the district set its priorities for next year’s budget. A link to the survey is on the district’s website, slcs.org.

“Before we start talking nuts and bolts about the budget itself, I want to take some time to ask all our community stakeholders about our shared vision as to what our priorities should be in the district,” Superintendent Diane Fox told the district’s Board of Education last week.

Fox said the survey is “short and sweet” and can be done “quickly but be meaningful.” It asks five questions, the first two of which are multiple choice.

The first question is, “What are the most important skills and abilities students must master to be prepared for a successful future?” A list of more than 15 choices follows, such as communication, technology and various school subjects. Respondents must choose five skills or abilities, or they can write in their own.

The second question asks what are the greatest challenges the district will face over the next five years. Again, respondents can pick any five choices or add their own. Some of the choices include maintaining extracurricular programs under funding constraints, meeting the new Common Core standards or keeping up the district’s facilities.

“They’re all things we need to look at over the next five years, but there will not be enough manpower, enough budget, enough time for all of those items to be the priority all the time, so where do we start with setting some priorities as we move forward?” Fox said.

The other three questions are geared toward college and career readiness. They ask respondents to identify the characteristics and attributes of highly skilled graduates, highly skilled employees and to name the district’s three highest priorities for preparing students for life after high school.

While the survey will be online using the website Survey Monkey, hard copies will also be made available, Fox said. She said the district would also spread the word about the survey through parent-teacher conferences.

Fox said she plans a series of surveys this year that would move from “a vision” into more specific questions about what direction the district could take as it assembles the budget.

The first survey began this week and will run through the Thanksgiving break. The second survey will likely begin in December and be advertised during holiday concerts, Fox said.

School officials also plan to conduct another budget “listening tour,” like they did last year, at various sites around the community.