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 CEO, 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 Rick Nobles, Patron Insight president, at (913) 484-0920 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].