Attendees at the first of six community engagement session designed to help shape a long term strategic plan for the Monroe County School District gave Superintendent Mark Porter largely critical feedback on Thursday night.
After brief introductory remarks, Porter led the 20 participants at the Martin Luther King Community Center in Key West's Bahama Village through a series of 25 multiple choice and yes or no questions about the district's overall performance.
Answers were submitted anonymously via a series of remote control-like clickers; then responses were tallied on a projector screen.
Using a traditional letter grade system, the majority of participants gave the district overall a "C" while giving teachers an overall mark of "B."
The district leadership received a "C," Porter himself received a "B," while the five-member School Board tied with five people each grading "B" and "D."
Perhaps most telling, when asked to rate the school systems financial stability eight people gave a "D" grade, while seven marked "F."
Porter multiple times acknowledged that the grades reflected numerous "opportunities for improvement."
"It's your school system," he told the group, "and we'd like to know what you think we should do."
Following the formal presentation, Porter opened the floor up to an open question and answer period, which did not disappoint.
The first questioner opened with: "You didn't mention the accounting stuff. Your presentation was all positive instead of mentioning the negative. That's what we came here to hear about."
In recent weeks the district received its fourth consecutive critical preliminary audit from the Florida Auditor General's Office, prompting Porter to notify three of his top administrators that their contracts would not be renewed.
Porter said that was an "internal problem we're trying to address. We know we can do better."
Porter is also fielding applications for a planned 50-member strategic planning committee, which will meet twice in April. The goal is to have a finished plan delivered to the School Board on June 25.
More information about the strategic planning process, and online applications, are available through www.keysschools.com.
District 3 School Board member Ed Davidson called the engagement sessions "a new flavor for community outreach. I think it's going to be very involving for community members and a very effective way to establish a whole new sense of community involvement, which will pay dividends."