For the most part, Utah County parents think educators are doing a good job teaching their children. But those parents want to be more involved in their childrens' education.

County residents gave local schools an overwhelming vote of support in a recent Dan Jones and Associates poll conducted for the Deseret News. Nearly two-thirds of those polled said they approved of the education children are receiving in Utah County's public schools."Well, I obviously think we've got excellent people working for us, but it's nice to know that our patrons do, too," Nebo School District Superintendent Denis Poul-sen said. "Our teachers really care about the kids, and so do our parents and community."

Dan Jones polled 401 Utah County residents between Dec. 5 and Dec. 10. Of the respondents to the poll, 25 percent said they strongly approved of their kids' public-education service, and 38 percent said they somewhat approved of it. The poll has a margin of error of 5 percent.

Marilyn Kofford, who won election to the Alpine School Board in November, said she is encouraged by the results.

Kofford has been a strong proponent of parental involvement in education as well as building community-school teamwork. She said the trend in education has been to get parental or community input into district programs or projects, which has made for a better working relationship and a better education system.

"It's increasing monumentally," said Kofford, who served for eight years as the American Fork High School PTA president before running for the school board. "That's not to say that we can't do better. We're still going to work on that."

Poulsen agrees and said his district has been working to get parental involvement using com-mit-tees and subcommittees that have relied on community input - including building, bonding and curriculum committees that have had largely layman participation.

According to Kofford, parents, administrators and teachers "can work together without pointing the finger at each other.

"That's the key," she said. "Most parents want the best for their children, and so do the teachers. It's just a matter of them both figuring out what really is best for them."

Only 22 percent of the respondents said they disapproved of educators' efforts in Utah County - and only 6 percent said they strongly disapproved. Compare that with the one-quarter of those that said they strongly approved of their children's public school education.

One of the state's most outspoken public-education critics said that many parents have taken a "see-no-evil, speak-no-evil" attitude toward their children's education in public schools, pointing to the 14 percent who said they didn't know whether they approved or disapproved of public education.

"What it shows is that most parents are not aware of what's going on in these schools," said Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Chapter of the Eagle Forum. "People are very accepting, and they're just not up on educational trends."

However, Ruzicka isn't necessarily criticizing parents, although she does advocate their getting involved but not in the way Poulsen and Kofford have suggested.

"The teachers and administrators in these schools are good people, and they're not making the choices that are getting the educational system off-track," she said. "But parents should demand that education get back to the basics. They need to ask questions about what their children are learning in schools and make sure they're learning about basic skills rather than about self-esteem."



Utah County poll

Do you approve or disapprove of the education children receive in Utah County's public schools?






Poll conducted Dec. 5-10, 1994. Margin of error +/-5% on interviews of 401 registered voters. Conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. Copyright 1994 Deseret News. Dan Jones & Associates, an independent organization founded in 1980, polls for the Deseret News and KSL. Its clients include other organizations and some political candidates.