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Lee County school choice survey results are in

Lee County school choice survey results are in

By Matt Grant. CREATED May 15, 2012

FORT MYERS - The results are in and it's back to square one.

The Lee County School District paid Texas-based Gibson Consulting more than $118,000 to commission a survey to find out how residents feel about school choice and neighborhood schools.

Not surprisingly, the results came back mixed.

"The community's not clearly map to a preference," according to the survey's findings, "for one type of system versus another."

"Do you feel the survey was a waste?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"Yes," said board member Don Armstrong, a vocal critic of the survey.

Armstrong says the survey was a "waste" because the district knew the community was split on school choice before they spent the money to commission the survey.

"I'm not happy with it," said Armstrong. "It's a waste of taxpayers' money."

Among the 10,000 adults who responded to the survey in February, many favored aspects of both school choice (specialized schools, ability to choose) and neighborhood schools (shorter bus rides, school a part of neighborhood's identity).

Among the 13,000 students that responded there was a "clear preference" for keeping choice, according to the survey.

At a news conference in January, we asked Superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke what would happen if the results came back mixed.
"Then we're going to be pretty much where we are right now," Burke said on Jan. 18.

Gibson Consulting laid out their findings to the board Tuesday. But it was Armstrong who laid into them upset they wanted $6,000 more to analyze all of the open-ended responses.

"I would never use my vote to vote for Gibson again for anything in this district," said Armstrong. "'Cause I felt that I was held hostage at gunpoint."

The company's president says they agreed to analyze a sampling of 1000 open-ended responses. He says the district wanted them to analyze all 9,000 - which created extra work.

"They asked us for more work we did not ask for more fees," said company president Greg Gibson.

"So you're saying you didn't break the contract?," asked Grant.

"Absolutely not," said Gibson.

With the survey done, the debate over school choice and neighborhood schools picks up once again as the board takes this data to determine what's next.

"You've done your work," said board member Jeanne Dozier. "It's time for us to do our work."

The survey focused on other areas besides school choice. Residents felt the district did a good job preparing students for work and college but felt they could do a better job communicating with parents.

See the full survey findings here

Matt Grant