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 president, at 816-255-0668 or [email protected].
By: Ken DeSieghardt
As school districts across the country look for ways to squeeze the most out of their budgets, the one area that tends to land on the chopping block is any printed community newsletter that is sent to all residents. Some basic math will demonstrate why such an idea may make fiscal sense, but strategically it is all wrong.
Start with the percentage of households in your district that have current district students. Depending on the community, of course, chances are the range is from 25 to 40 percent. That means that 60 to 75 percent have no regular outbound contact from the school district and no real reason to seek out information on their own.
Patron Insight’s studies show the number one source of school district news for the typical resident is “friends and neighbors.” If you stop communicating directly with people who no longer have students in school, you are leaving their view of the district up to an acquaintance.
It matters as you try to protect and advance your brand, but it really matters when you need a good portion of that 60 to 75 percent in your corner on a future Election Day.
The Blue Valley (Kan.) School District has restarted its quarterly Blue Valley Today publication after a one-year hiatus. To find out more about the district’s thinking, contact Kristi McNerlin, chief communications officer, at [email protected].
Ready to start your own district newsletter? Contact Rick Nobles, Patron Insight president, at
913-484-0920 or [email protected].
By: Ken DeSieghardt
The Derby (Kan.) Public Schools, one of several school districts located on the outer rim of the state’s largest city, has long had a solid brand. Among the school districts located in suburban Wichita, Derby is known for its high-quality academics, array of extracurricular activities and strong athletics.
It was also evident in the district that numerous school support buildings have been tugging on finances, due to a variety of reasons, including size constraints and building efficiencies. The city has also been experiencing growth and development in an area lacking a nearby elementary school.
To determine what patrons might support on a bond election ballot to address these present issues, Patron Insight conducted a telephone survey of registered voter patrons, paired with a companion online survey of the community.
While the results showed solid support for many projects – and what seemed to be mostly questions, rather than objections, about the others – an activity center and some other athletic projects were not as popular.
Some of the highest-profile athletic projects dealt with stadium renovations and the construction of a facility called the Panther Activity Center, a 120-yard, indoor multipurpose facility that would meet curricular needs for additional Physical Education space as well as accommodate extracurricular activities such as marching band, AFJROTC, athletic programs and possible use by the community.
The results suggested the activity center and a few of the athletic projects – if included in the ballot issue with the priority needs – could potentially pull down the “Yes” votes enough to put the entire bond proposal at risk.
The district’s Process for Success committee decided to separate the ideas into three questions. The first contained the priority needs. The second was the Panther Activity Center and the third included the remaining athletic projects not in question one. It was also decided questions two and three were contingent on question one passing.
As projected, question one ended election night with a “Yes” vote, while questions two and three fell short of the majority needed. Splitting them up helped ensure the high-priority needs in question one would get addressed.
To learn more about this, contact Derby Public Schools at [email protected]. To learn how Patron Insight can help your district with a similar situation, contact Patron Insight CEO Ken DeSieghardt at [email protected].