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 Ken DeSieghardt, Patron Insight Principal/Founder, at
913-814-7626 or [email protected].
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 Founder/Principal Ken DeSieghardt at [email protected].