BELMONT — After meeting three consecutive nights this week, the Shaker Regional School Board is close to hiring PCG Education of Boston to conduct a far-reaching "culture" survey.
According to Business Administrator Debbie Thompson, the board initially approved spending up to $19,000 for a survey that will query community members, current and past employees, students, and parents.
The survey will address morale, collaboration, change and the pace of change, and community communications.
The reason for the survey is two-fold — the board has already planned on doing one this year and voters passed a non-binding, petitioned article placed on the 2015 school district warrant that requested one.
The article's sponsors wanted a separate committee to be created whose members would be appointed by district Moderator Roy Roberts — one of the titular heads of the survey request. The board decided though that they would oversee the survey but would contract it to a professional company so the questions would not be directly influenced by them.
Roberts is not thrilled that the school board took it upon itself to do the survey but said he expected it would be outsourced.
On Monday, all seven members of the board met with two consultants from PCG Education at Belmont High School.
The board has a choice between a "canned" or already prepared survey or a custom-designed survey. On of the PCG representatives said the company had never been asked to survey previous employees so there was no existing template for that.
The purpose of the meeting was to negotiate the final price for the survey and to button down the types of questions each core group would be answering. The school board will be responsible for the survey but will have no direct input into the actually framing of the questions.
Some school board members were concerned that if the employees of four schools were polled individually and then by job description, the small size of the schools could jeopardize anonymity.
PCG representatives said the survey should be brief and take no more than 15 minutes for someone who receives to respond. She said in her experience, the longer the survey means that fewer people will take the time to complete it.
Gretta Olson-Wilder said she would like a small space for people to write their own comments to address things that were not on the survey and Jill LaValley said she would like to present very cut-and-dry questions.
"If people aren't happy it would be a good time to know why," she said.
After discussion the issue at their regular meeting on Tuesday and by conference call on Wednesday, Thompson said the board made a motion to approve a contract up to $20,000 because the final best price from PCG for the type of customized survey it wanted is $19,434.
Thompson said the final price was determined on Wednesday at the conference call but, even though there was a quorum, the members who participated felt it was too important to not have all the members present.
She said the final vote on whether or not to enter into the contract is scheduled for the May 26 meeting to be held at 6 p.m. at the Belmont Elementary School Library.