Memorandum 14-099 Final Report of 2014 Citizens Academy
TO: Mayor Wythe and Homer City Council
FROM: Katie Koester, Community and Economic Development Coordinator
THROUGH: Walt Wrede, City Manager
DATE: June 16, 2014
SUBJECT: Final Report of Inaugural 2014 Homer Citizens Academy
By all accounts the first City of Homer Citizens Academy was a great success; staff got to reflect on the accomplishments of their departments and the participants learned a great deal about how the city functions and came away with a new appreciation for city staff and services. And I dare say, we even had fun doing it!
The Academy was organized into 6 once weekly 2.5 hour long evening meetings from 5:30-8pm on Thursdays from February 20 through March 27, 2014. An additional tour only evening was added on April 3 to give participants a chance to tour the water treatment plant, fire and police stations.
2014 Citizens Academy Schedule:
February 20, 2014: Office of the City Manager, Office of the City Clerk, City Attorney
February 27, 2014: Homer Port and Harbor
March 6, 2014: Homer Public Library, Personnel, Information Technology
March 13, 2014: Public Works
March 20, 2014: Homer Volunteer Fire Department, Homer Police Department
March 27, 2014: Planning, Community Recreation, Finance
April 3, 2014: Tour of Water Treatment Plant, Police Station and Fire Station
Each participant was given a binder on the first day of class and departments added materials to it every week. Most departments prepared a power point that was included in the binder. Whenever possible, the sessions include tours of City facilities. The Port and Harbor tour was especially popular. At the end of the course participants were given information on how they could be involved in local government (boards, commission and Council) including applications forms for City commissions and a list of current vacancies.
Profile of Participants:
12 certificated (attended 5 of the 6 classes)
2 were City of Homer staff
1 Council member
2 were non-residents
The Academy came in over $1,000 under budget. The largest expense was food. I believe it is absolutely necessary to feed people if you are expecting to hold their attention for almost 3 hours over the dinner time frame. Simple fair like soup or sandwiches was purchased from local vendors. A $3,000 budget would be sufficient for staff to put on the Academy and have room for small incidentals.
Advertising (newspapers): $900
Bus rental: $203.13
Total Cost: $2,762.96
At the end of each class participants were asked to fill out an evaluation giving feedback on the quality of the speakers, content, tours/demonstrations and an overall rating.
The average overall rating for all 6 classes was 4.85 out of 5. Some of the notable positive comments were:
-“If everyone liked their job as much as all the people we heard from the world would be a better place.”
-“Happy to see City employees so willing to add to their work load to inform us of the policies and procedures.”
-“I can tell that each department will provide a great description of what they do. Thank you.”
The evaluations offered constructive comments too, such as suggestions on how to improve a power point, organize the packet or hand out name tags. This was all valuable information for Academy organizers as the process was fine-tuned throughout the course. Each evaluation was shared with the staff that presented that day. Participants also filled out a final evaluation. It was great to see the positive comments from people who thought it was a good use of their time. The average final evaluation score was 4.9. A summary of the final evaluation form and participants comments is attached.
Staff that presented were also given an evaluation form with suggestions for Academy organizers on how to improve next time. One of the biggest challenges was time. The class often ran over and some departments felt like there was not enough time to adequately explain what they do. The participant’s reaction was mixed: some though more time was needed; others felt like it was a lot of information to absorb and more time would affect retention of information.
There was lots of good feedback to incorporate into future Citizen Academies. Based on recommendations, I would make it a 7-8 week course and give Police and Fire more time and add a section on City Council. I would also expand the explanation of how to become involved with local government.