An large sampling of county residents responded to a Board of Education survey that sought to assess the status of public education in Harford schools.
"It is brave to accept things we could do better," said Ronald R. Eaton, school board vice president, who initiated the survey that was distributed to 16,600 randomly selected parents, students, staff members, senior citizens, business people and community members.
The number of returns -- 9,444 -- impressed school officials.
"It shows a huge interest and value in education in Harford County," School Superintendent Ray R. Keech said.
Thomas W. Small, a school system official who coordinated the survey, said the number was "staggering" and that he is still receiving responses.
"It shows people care and want a voice in schools," he said.
The results of the 75-question poll on public school education were released last week at a press conference.
The data are still being analyzed, but at first glance, seem to show that Harford residents support the school system's five-year master plan; inclusion, a school buzzword for integrating special education students in regular classes; alternative education programs; alternative forms of discipline; and technology. Technology was the one area in which respondents were willing to pay higher taxes.
Areas of concern for residents included: communication with schools, being welcome in schools, preparation of students for the work world and technology. A vast majority of the respondents were dissatisfied with the state of technology in schools.
The support and concern with technology aren't surprising in Harford County, Dr. Small said.
"Parents know about technology and have it in their homes," he said.
He cited recently released data that showed that 37 percent of county residents have personal computers. "This is above the national average of about 20 percent," he said.
Dr. Small stressed that it is going to take a while to process the information. At this point, "it is very raw, but very potent data," he said.
The survey will be used by school officials to help plan the future direction of public education.
The next step, though, is to allow Dr. Small to polish the data, Mr. Eaton said.
Then, "I'd like to think we will engage in significant public debate on the responses."