JOHNSTOWN - The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education recently agreed to allow Johnstown High School social studies students to hand out questionnaires to district voters after they vote, but the board will not allow them to do personal interviews with voters.
Social studies teacher Sean Russo wants to have his Participation In Government students conduct an exit survey of district residents after voting on the budget and board candidates at the polls May 15.
The exercise would help students understand the voting process, and Superintendent Robert DeLilli said it was an "important piece of work."
Johnstown High School social studies teacher Sean Russo discusses a planned voter survey at a Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education meeting last week at Glebe Street Elementary School.
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"We have an opportunity for our students to get involved," Russo said. "My goal is I would like my students to be informed citizens."
Russo said students would be told to be "very respectful" of voters as they leave the polls.
Russo said he wanted to have students go to polling sites and interview voters after they left the polls, but the board decided only to allow the students to conduct their research by handing out questionnaires.
"One of the goals here is to find out what makes a good survey," Russo said.
The plan is to have the students discuss results of their surveys the day after the district election in 15-minute blocks of time during lunch or study hall.
Russo said the students will create the questions, which will be reviewed in class, and go through a final editing process presided by himself and JHS Principal Michael Beatty.
The board had discussed the idea of the exit survey last year.
"The board had a huge issue [with interviews] when this came down last year," board member Evamarie Mraz said.
Board member Ronald Beck proposed the students hand out written questionnaires as part of their research.
"Integrity needs to be upheld," board President Paul VanDenburgh said. "It is an educational tool. I can buy into it."
Mraz said she was against the "whole process," feeling "some of the questions are an invasion of privacy."
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.