A majority of community members think the Anoka-Hennepin School District is on the right track with education and spending, according to a recent survey.

The Morris Leatherman Company found 86% of respondents rated the quality of education in the district as good or excellent in a 2019 survey.

The number of excellent ratings has slowly increased since 2015, Peter Leatherman, CEO of The Morris Leatherman Company, told the School Board Aug. 26. However, this year’s increase in excellent ratings compared to last year is insignificant. A change of more than 5 percentage points between years would be significant, he said.

“It hasn’t grown, it hasn’t receded; it’s still a good reservoir of people that are enthusiastic about the quality of education here,” Leatherman said.

A majority, 67%, of respondents rated the School Board’s job performance favorably versus 3% who said it was poor.

The superintendent and administration’s job performance was rated favorably by 68% of respondents, while 2% called the performance poor.

The similar ratings of the board and administration indicate a well-functioning district, Leatherman said.

Teacher job performance was rated favorably by 88% of respondents, and 0% rated teacher performance as poor.

Asked what they liked most about the district, 18% of respondents said good teachers; 17% said good programs; 14% said excellent or good education; and 12% said broad curriculum.

Anoka-Hennepin appears to have few, if any, serious problems indicated by the survey results. Respondents were asked to identify the most significant issue facing the district, and Leatherman said if 20% or more of respondents listed one category as a concern, it might indicate a major issue.

The most common concern was class size, with 13% of respondents calling it the top issue facing the district. That was a decrease of 6 points from 2018. The next most common response was lack of funding at 12% of respondents, followed by 11% saying nothing was a significant concern.

Surveyors spoke more in depth with respondents about class sizes, telling them the average size broken down by grade and asking if they thought those were too large. Residents were most concerned over fifth- through eighth-grade classes, Leatherman said.

Over half of respondents (51%) said fifth-grade classes should be smaller, and 45% said middle school classes should be smaller. Less than 40% of respondents said each the remaining grades in question about should be smaller.

The reputation of the school district was considered good by 37% of respondents and excellent by 16%. Meanwhile 24% of respondents said the district had a reputation for being large. Good ratings dropped by 9 percentage points, while perceptions of the district as large increased by 11 points, a statistically significant shift according to Leatherman — though he was not sure what those changes could mean.

“I don’t know if it’s a fault with the discussion, the growth, the additional schools from the bond referendum in 2017, people being aware of the size — but it will be interesting to see how that tracks over time in the future,” Leatherman said.

Respondents largely said the district is doing about the same or better than five years ago, with 3% saying it’s doing much better, 30% saying somewhat better, 48% saying about the same and 9% saying somewhat worse. No respondents said the district was much worse than before.

The financial management of the district was rated favorably by 63% of respondents, while 5% said it was poor.

Leatherman said the district’s reputation for financial management was in good shape in particular because the recent referendum had not hurt it significantly.

The survey interviewed 500 respondents, leaving the results plus or minus 5.4% in most cases. The survey was done near the end of May, most of it after the Legislature had finished its session, Leatherman said.

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