We have seen it all too often, and maybe you have experienced it in your district: The mystery of the vanishing Citizens Advisory Committee (or whatever you call your formal feedback group of constituents).
The first meeting bristles with excitement, as citizens pile into the meeting room and carry on a structured conversation about the committee purpose, discuss future meeting dates and aspirations, and maybe even tackle a topic that’s a “low-hanging fruit.”
The next meeting draws 25 percent fewer attendees, but it still has a pretty good turnout and discussion. Then the ball really starts to roll downhill, in terms of attendance.
How to get around this? Conduct Online Citizens Advisory Committee meetings. Here’s how they work:
- You have the traditional first meeting, but with a twist – that’s the last time.
- You announce, instead, the group will be asked to make a one-year commitment to answering brief online surveys (either quarterly, or six times a year). The surveys will take 10 minutes, and 100 percent participation is required. Pass around a sample survey to show you really do mean 10 minutes.
- An email with key details will precede the surveys.
- Ask the group members to sign up before they leave. Also, tell them they will be asked to provide their name on each survey, in case follow-up is necessary.
Patron Insight has successfully assisted several schools districts with Citizens Advisory Committees. If we can help you get one underway, contact Ken DeSieghardt at 816-255-0668 or [email protected].
The Rolla (Mo.) Public Schools are in the midst of a rather atypical research endeavor right now.They conducted research before fashioning a ballot issue, which ended up winning at the polls. They constructed the projects and started the programs specified in the bond issue, and they now are all up and running. But they still wondered, could anything have been better?
Specifically, did the community feel well-informed about the progress of the projects? If not, how could it have been improved? And now having cleared this hurdle, how do you think we’re doing? Are we living up to the goals we set forth in our strategic plan back in 2014 (specifically, the district’s Comprehensive School Improvement Plan, or CSIP)?
So, they engaged Patron Insight to ask those questions via telephone and online research. The results will be available later this month.
“In all the excitement over projects to get done and programs up and running, following a bond issue, it’s easy to assume residents felt connected to the process,” said Dr. Aaron Zalis, superintendent. “We want to find out for certain, so we can continue to improve our performance and our efforts to make that connection.”
For more information about research of this type, contact Ken DeSieghardt, Patron Insight Founder/Principal, at (816) 225-0668 or [email protected].
While the number of fires to put out may be down to zero on most summer days, that doesn’t mean an annual office file purge should be your only goal during the upcoming three months or so. Here are some activities to consider that will give you strategic insight for the next school year:
• If you haven’t conducted a communications audit in several years, summer is a great time to launch part one – a review of recent outbound content, by an unbiased third party, to see what it is you are really saying. That way, once the school year begins, you can pick up with part two (reviewing what you want to be saying) and part three (finding out what stakeholders are hearing).
• Planning a potential ballot issue for next spring? Summer is the perfect time to set the research calendar to make certain you hear from a cross-section of registered voters – not just the “frequent flyers” who love you and those who think you have no clue how to run a school district.
• Summer is also a good time to step back and consider ways to engage your community more effectively on a long-term basis. A Citizens Advisory Committee – in person, if you have a population that does actually show up for meetings, or virtual, if even free pizza doesn’t draw a crowd – can be a great audience of idea testers and ambassadors.
Patron Insight can assist with these services and many more that are perfect to start during the summer. We also offer an opportunity – in certain cases – of splitting the fees between the current fiscal year (if yours ends June 30) and the next fiscal year to help limit the impact of the cost. All of these are based on the project and timing. Samples of our work in these areas can be viewed on our website. Interested in more information? Contact Ken DeSieghardt, Patron Insight Founder/Principal, at 816-255-0668 or [email protected].