Parents, school staff show support for NB referendum

Pat Tepoorten, North Branch Area Public Schools community relations coordinator, went over the results of the district’s last “Thoughtexchange” process at the May 11 meeting, and he said it showed strong support from district parents and school staff for the May 23 referendum.
First, Tepoorten explained the Thoughtexchange process.
“Thoughtexchange is an open-ended (online) comment process that takes participants through three phases,” he said. “It asks questions of those who participate, and people are allowed to put in multiple responses, if they want. But they’re open-ended responses, which makes Thoughtexchange a unique product. Most survey products are multiple choice. It’s really hard to collect and quantify all those open-ended responses, and Thoughtexchange does that for us.”
Tepoorten said there were 289 participants in this Thoughtexchange, and they shared 196 thoughts and placed 7,358 stars on various thoughts shared. Tepoorten noted participants can assign stars if they like comments.
“It’s done anonymously,” he said. “Thoughtexchange then categorizes all of those thoughts and then we put them back out to the public, and they’re allowed to star different thoughts. What Thoughtexchange does for us is it makes sure we get responses from individuals. There is no groupthink happening. When you have groups of people, sometimes thinking can shift. You can do this in your P.J.s at 3 a.m., if you want. It’s your thoughts; it’s always going to be your thoughts.”
Tepoorten said the demographics of who took part in the study broke down this way: 66 percent parents or guardians, 33 percent school district staff, and the rest of the participants were made up of community members or others.
He noted there were “many, many, many indications of support for the referendum through this Thoughtexchange.”
“People were not asked, necessarily, if they supported or didn’t support (the referendum),” Tepoorten said. “In fact, the question we asked was: ‘We created the website and fact sheet to help you make an informed decision when voting on the May 23 ballot. What comments or questions do you have about the information provided?’ Of the participants, over 169 placed 1,180 stars with positive comments about the need for the referendum.”
Tepoorten also said the district received comments about wanting even more detail about the referendum, so there was information added to the referendum effort’s online FAQ section about the debt schedule and how the money from questions 1 and 2 would be spent, if the referendum passes.
Voting for the three-question referendum, which seeks to address facilities needs, improve athletics spaces and provide technology enhancements, will take place 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, at the North Branch Area Education Center, 38705 Grand Ave. Anyone who wants to read further information about the referendum can visit the district’s website, http://isd138.org/referendum.

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