Are you being bullied? Do you feel welcome at school? Do you have friends?
They're awkward questions that teenagers, asked point-blank, don't always feel comfortable answering. But school leaders at Rosemount High School want the plain truth, so they're taking the unusual step this month of surveying the whole student body.
The anonymous written survey, which will be given during English classes in the next week or two, asks students to agree or disagree with statements about what they're learning and how teachers and peers treat them. Administrators hope the responses will help them improve the school's climate, an effort that has already led to several changes this year.
"The research tells us that, oftentimes, adults in a building have a different perception of what exactly is going on than the perception that the students have," said assistant principal Tim Conboy. Rosemount teachers pride themselves on the school's positive atmosphere, he said, but "we're just kind of wondering if students feel the same way."
High schools often survey seniors to find out where they go after graduation, and many participate in the Minnesota Student Survey, which asks students statewide about sex, drugs and more.
But schoolwide surveys are less common, and this one will be the first of its kind in recent memory at Rosemount, Conboy said.
The survey and other efforts weren't prompted by any problems, administrators said, but they fit in nicely with a request that Superintendent John Currie made this year to have teachers throughout the district focus on building relationships with students. "We just kind of ran with John's theme," said Principal John Wollersheim, who is in his first year at the school's helm.
That's not to say the school hasn't weathered tough times. Last spring, a Rosemount student was stabbed and killed off campus by a schoolmate, and some students who knew the boys are still recovering, said several Rosemount staff members. That's not why the school is doing the survey, but "I think it makes it more timely," said Pete Roback, an assistant principal.
In general, though, students are relaxed and happy, said David Yates, a senior on the student council. "It's kind of six degrees of separation. Everybody knows everybody some way," he said.
School administrators have made several small changes this year to boost the school's climate. They've put more teachers in hallways to get students to class on time and reduced the number of lunch shifts, allowing staff to clean up between shifts and cutting down on confusion that used to contribute to more tardies after lunch.
Fall trimester tardies are down 26 percent from last year, and office referrals for behavior are down 38 percent, the principal said, adding that he hesitated to draw a direct link between those figures and any particular change the school has made.
"We're just working on little things," he said.
Those small gestures include the first morning of school this fall, when the entire faculty clustered at the front doors to welcome students when they got off the bus. "I have no statistical evidence that it made a difference in anybody's life," Wollersheim said, "but it was something we hadn't done before."
Sarah Lemagie • 952-882-9016