Or at least that's what I took away from the pair of press releases district officials issued in recent days.
On Monday, the Pleasanton Unified School District publicly launched its annual "School Quality Stakeholder Survey," an online questionnaire targeting insights from parents, guardians, staff and secondary students but also open to the community at-large.
That news came one week after PUSD unveiled its new "Let's Talk!" platform, a centralized tool allowing people to send a question, comment or concern to PUSD any time online or via mobile app. The submission will be directed to the appropriate source and a response expected within 24 to 48 hours.
The two efforts, both coordinated by national education consultant firm K12 Insight under separate contracts totaling about $56,000 per year, seem rooted in information gathering, internal improvement, stakeholder engagement and enhanced customer service -- areas all governmental entities, PUSD included, should always be striving to get better at.
So I decided to dig a little deeper.
Interviewing Patrick Gannon, PUSD's coordinator of communication and community engagement, I learned the stakeholder survey is a mix of questions similar to those from the two previous years' surveys along with new questions targeting input on the district's COVID-19 response and remote and hybrid learning experiences in the 2020-21 school year. (Gannon noted there was no annual survey for 2019-20 due to the impacts of the pandemic in spring 2020.)
In many ways, the 2021 results will serve as a post-pandemic benchmark, according to Gannon.
Survey data are expected to be shared with the school board and leadership at individual school sites this summer; the district hopes to identify its strengths and where it needs to improve.
I clicked through the stakeholder survey myself on Tuesday night. Don't worry; I didn't submit it at the end and selected "Don't know" or put "N/A" in answer boxes wherever possible. I just wanted to get a sense, first-hand, of what online respondents will face.
It's mainly multiple choice in format. And they're fair in estimating 10 minutes at most.
There are broader questions you'd expect like "How would you rate the overall quality of the district?" (scale: Excellent; Good; Fair; Poor). And there are more targeted queries within topics like academic support, school leadership, family environment, district communications and the pandemic (scale: Strongly agree; Agree; Disagree; Strongly disagree; Don't know).
A few of the prompts for rating that stood out to me were: "This school is safe", "Teachers successfully show students how lessons relate to life outside of school", "Bullying is not tolerated" and "School administrators (principals and assistant principals) are responsive when I have a concern."
Oh, and of course, "How would you rate how Pleasanton Unified School District handled the COVID-19 pandemic for the 2020-21 school year?"
That area of results will undoubtedly be the headline. How was the at-home learning experience? Were course expectations clearly explained? What about when kids came back to campus? And what elements from hybrid learning should the district bring back?
I do recommend, on the COVID-era questions, being thoughtful and fair in focusing on PUSD specifically and how it handled decisions, programs and outcomes under their control during this pandemic. Consider recognizing what negatives (or positives) were more the result of state and county mandates or guidelines. That's how the district can truly get the types of responses to help them improve where and how they can in the future.
The survey is open through May 17. Staff and students in grades 6-12 received the survey by email invitation; parents, guardians and community members can take it at pusdedu.info/2021sqsurvey. There are English, Spanish and Chinese language versions. Responses are anonymous.
Also Tuesday night, I visited the App Store, found "Let's Talk! (school customer experience)" and tried it out.
I'll often download relevant (free) apps onto my phone as part of my journalistic research -- I still have the town's "Danville Connect" app I downloaded soon after it debuted in 2013. It's instructive in reporting to experience what the user would experience.
Once accessing PUSD specifically (via ID No. PU1922), "Let's Talk!" seemed like a straightforward platform.
That's what I like to see from a digital customer service tool; regardless of whether I like the answers I get, I can respect an intuitive and efficient process for delivering direct responses to my questions.
Of course in PUSD's case, I expect the depth of the query could impact timeliness of response, but Gannon told me his goal is within 24 to 48 hours. Fair standard; we'll have to see how it plays out.
"It's a bridge that helps connect people to different parts of our organization and get the information in a reliable, consistent and hopefully more efficient way," he said. "If you don't know who to call, you know that you can go here."
Check it out via the app or at pusdedu.info/letstalk. Then, let me know what you think.
Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Pleasanton Weekly since February 2017. His "What a Week" column runs on the first and third Fridays of the month.