• Is it Back-to-School Night already?

    Well, no, it’s not time for that just yet.

    However, there is no better time during the school year then Back-to-School Night to engage with your parents and maximize the opportunity to build strong relationships. And it’s an absolutely ideal time to mine some great data from this key audience.

    You don’t need to do anything elaborate. Just simply ask your parents to take one minute to answer three questions on a survey that can be handed out to every person that night.

    Question one: What would you like to know more about from your school and the school district this year?

    This is a great way to find out whether the topics you deem to be the most important to communicate align with what your parents want to know most about.

    Question two: What’s the best way to get that information to you?

    The answers you receive, such as email, text, newsletter, etc., probably won’t add much to how you are already communicating with your parents. But they should help you determine the frequency of each communication method and which ones are most popular with your audience.

    Question three: What’s the one topic you really would like us to not talk about so much (because you’re not all that interested)?

    You probably will receive a lot of “I don’t know” responses. However, you might be pleasantly surprised by the candor of the people who are tired of hearing about the same topics – those only the district finds exciting.

    At the bottom of the survey, promise you will get a summary of the findings back to all parents. And make it clear to your building folks to tell parents that “If you’ve already filled this out in one school, there’s no need to fill out a second one.”

    Then, create a simple process where you can tally key words from the surveys, like “test scores,” “finances” and “School Board decisions.” Don’t sort through the long-winded ones; just look for key words.

    If you make it a practice to do this every year at Back-to-School Night, you will be able to stay current with parent interests and transmittal preferences.

  • Check-in survey finds good news

    In our June 5th blog post (scroll below), we discussed a survey being conducted by the Rolla (Mo.) Public Schools. This is part two of that article.

    Rolla wanted to “check in” with community members and get a read on their level of satisfaction with the district’s performance and its delivery of the promised projects on the last bond issue.

    A random sample of 375 area heads of households was contacted via telephone, producing statistically reliable data that has an industry standard 5 percent Margin of Error. To make certain those who wished to comment were not left out, a companion online survey was made available through the district’s website and promoted actively. A total of 249 individuals completed this survey, meaning more than 600 people expressed their opinion between the phone and online surveys.

    The news was very positive: The community continues to think very highly of the people, programs and facilities, and it feels a real sense of belonging, as you read the evaluations of the district/patron relationship factors.

    In terms of the bond issue, there were plenty of good marks for the district on keeping its promises made during the campaign, keeping the community informed along the way and delivering high-quality facilities.

    The only slight blemish? They want more communication – a common call among school district patrons, and further proof of a saying of Patron Insight, “If you think you have told the community about something often enough, the answer is always ‘No.’”


  • A missing piece in your strategic planning process?

    We talk frequently in this newsletter about the challenge of gathering opinions from the 80 percent of your patron population who have little interest in speaking up (until Election Day, that is).  

    As long as the school district seems to be going along smoothly and staying off the front page of the newspaper, they focus on the other worries in their lives.

    If that’s the case, what’s the big deal about cornering them, until they give you their opinion?

    There are several reasons why the silent majority has to be nudged into speaking up. One of the most important times where their opinion matters – whether they think so or not – is during your strategic planning process.

    While your playbook may be somewhat different, the typical strategic planning undertaking is typically led by a committee consisting of business and civic leaders, perhaps members of the faith community, and staff from your district. District leadership plays the role of subject matter expert, or SME, whenever the committee has a question.

    Mixed in with this group process is often a series of focus groups, and interviews with Board members, the district cabinet, and community thought leaders. All this data gets put into a meat grinder of sorts, trying to determine what this cross-section of humanity wants for the district for the next five years.

    The problem with these being your only sources of data is they are waist-deep in the district – if not at the beginning, by the end. What about the typical resident? What does he or she think?

    To solve this problem, collect the data to the point where you are beginning to really narrow the focus and conduct a brief telephone survey of your community. Let them be the spot-checker on your thinking – what sounds good and what you may have forgotten in your zest.

    Camdenton School District in Missouri followed our strategic planning process with the outcome being a well thought out five-year plan, created by “the people of this district.”  View the district’s plan on our website.

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