COMMUNICATION SURVEY RESULTS AND PLAN 2015

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1 1 P age COMMUNICATION SURVEY RESULTS AND PLAN 2015 The Dakota School District collected input from the parents and community members on how communication is provided and received in the district. The goals of the communication committee and Dakota School Board was: To collect information on the transparency of the school district; To reinvest in trust capital. Budget deficits come and go but trust deficit is here to stay; To ensure a vocal minority does not dominate (overwhelm the goals and agenda of the district; To have the parents and community help to continue to move the district forward. Research on the importance on communication in the schools to the community Effective communication is critical to the success of the Dakota Community School District. In today s economic climate, it has never been more important for the district to tell the story of public education. DCUSD is in a unique position. DCUSD is on the verge of going from being a great district to an even greater district, and effective communication is going to get us there. The district is fortunate to have leadership that values and has high expectations for communication. Today s schools are high-profile organizations under constant public scrutiny. Public schools are unfairly portrayed in documentaries such as Waiting for Superman and movies that spotlight the worst-case scenarios in public education. Public perception is important. The district needs to tell the story about how schools make a positive difference in the lives of our students every day and how our schools are succeeding overall in spite of dwindling resources. Otherwise, people will form their opinions from limited news coverage, biased films, rumors and gossip. Schools also have to allow for the input of other stakeholders in the community. It is important for DCUSD to communicate with and engage all of the stakeholders including students, parents, legislators and the community. Public schools face increasing competition from charter schools, private schools, virtual schools and home schooling. Over the past several years, the district has faced declining resources and had budget slashed about as much as they can stand. So what is effective communication? Business leaders and educational leaders understand that two-way communication is crucial to the success of any business or school. Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, writes A primary task in taking a company (school) from good to great is to create a culture wherein people have a tremendous opportunity to be heard and, ultimately, for the truth to be heard. (2001, p.88). Another researcher on communication Jeswald W. Salacuse writes in his book, Leading Leaders. Communication is fundamental to building relationships and therefore to the ability to lead. (2006, p. 23).

2 Schools need to use communication as a bridge and not a buffer says Cyndi Lee in her article Why School Communication Matters. Schools use communication people out of the district. If we give them some information than they will leave us alone and be happy with what they received. This type of thinking just does not work. Schools need to create a bridge or a link between the stakeholders and the school district. One of the greatest misconception in education is that we can do a great job of educating students and communicating with parents and still miss 80% of the people in the community. A large amount of the people in our district do not have children in the school district. Districts need to continue to focus on the community as a whole. The kids are the ones that will benefit from good communication. Good communication increases parent involvement in the school. (Henderson, 2002) Many school and family collaborations have demonstrated that parent involvement is a key ingredient in higher student achievement. (Cary, 2006, pp. 6-7.) Good communication between the school and parents and between the school district and the community creates a climate of trust and respect in which teachers can teach and students can learn. Good communication builds a team that team we are always talking about that team that surrounds and supports a student so that he or she can succeed. What kind of family-school communication makes a difference? Research is clear about the kinds of parental involvement that lead to student learning. Some of their key findings on effective communication provide a clear guideline to follow for effective communication. Keeps parents, the media and the public informed about the latest initiatives and activities Helps bolster and promote student and staff achievement Helps foster collaboration among, town, county and school officials which is critical to success- especially in tight budget times Helps build community support, business partnerships and volunteerism in our schools Provides accurate and reliable information daily- especially during emergencies and crises Maintains continual engagement with our key stakeholders through community and employee events Maintains substantive social media messages in today s 24/7 news cycle to ensure transparency and efficient message dissemination Recognizes the value of listening well to build positive relationships. 2 P age

3 Process The Dakota School District communication committee created a survey for parents and community members in the district. The survey was created using survey monkey and was web-based. The only way to take the survey was through a computer. The survey was available and made known in several ways: Note handed out at P/T conference; Computers were set up at P/T conference; Information and the link was posted on the district website, facebook and twitter; A phone message was also sent out to all parents in the district. The survey was made available for two weeks. The data was collected and analyzed by using the survey monkey program. Results There were 256 individual responses for the survey. 46% of the respondents to the survey answered the survey on behalf of the elementary school. Approximately 62% of the respondents to the survey answered the survey on behalf of the Jr./Sr. High School. 14% of the respondents did not have children currently in the school district but lived in the community. Elementary Results 93% of the parents strongly agreed or agreed that they were informed about what was going on at the elementary school 75% of the parents strongly agreed or agreed that the school clearly communicated their child s academic progress How can the school improve communication from the school building to home. These responses were categorized into themes. There were 39 responses. Below is a list of the most common responses: N/A or good job; use more ; more notice on events. The top three methods that parents would like communication from the elementary were: ; Parent Portal; Telephone; others that were significant were District newsletter and Facebook Jr./Sr/ High Results 79% of the parents strongly agreed or agreed that they were informed about what was going on at the Jr./Sr. high school 91% of the parents strongly agreed or agreed that the school clearly communicates their child s academic progress 3 P age

4 How can the school improve communication from the school building to home. These were categorized into themes. There were 57 responses overall and this is a list of the most commonly mentioned: It was fine or supported current communication; used more; text messages and phone messages; information mailed home including the newsletter Top four methods parents would like communication from the Jr./Sr. High: 87% ; 56% telephone; 47% District newsletter; 43% on-line parent portal District Social Media 54% of the responses stated they follow the district facebook page- Dakota Community School District 10% of the responses stated they follow the district on District Website 98% of the parents that responded stated that they have been on the Dakota Website- There were only three responses for the community portion of whether they visit the Dakota website 36% of the respondents visit the site once a month; 29% visit the site once a week Skyward, Lunch menus, Academic calendar, sports calendar were the top reasons why people visit the website. An oversite by the administration did not make the newsletter as a choice. However, six people added the newsletter in the other category. Themes were created as to what people would like to see added to the website: 8 better sports information; 22 NA/Good; 7 daily events and update calendars; 5 to make more user friendly; 4 more on individual classrooms District office communication There were 65 responses to the question of how district can improve communication: 29 responses listed NA/Good Job; responded newsletter/ /text; mentioned posting agendas 4 P age

5 90% of the respondents felt the district provided adequate opportunities for people to express concerns and opinions about important issues in the school district Communication to the Community There were 26 individuals that responded as a community member to the survey 18% individuals felt very informed 37% of individuals felt pretty well informed 44% of individuals felt somewhat informed The top ways the community would like to receive information were: ; District newsletter, facebook, Volunteer newspaper When asked how the district can improve communication with the community the common themes were: Newsletter, consistent information given, update social media sites The survey asked what the community would like to learn more about. The results were very equal in the following areas: Academic information, Dates, Financial information, School board and education information The community would like to receive information in the following ways: The majority of the way was through and the newsletter. 82%(14) of the 17 respondents felt that the concerns or opinions expressed by the community are considered by the district leadership Climate Overview of the District Quality of educational services for the district 5 P age 87% felt the district was excellent or satisfactory Facilities of the district 96% felt the district was excellent or satisfactory

6 Transportation of the district 60% felt the district was excellent or satisfactory 23% felt it was no applicable to them to answer Food services of the district 70% felt the district was excellent or satisfactory Strengths and Limitations One of the strengths of this survey was the number of parent responses. The data was very organized and automatically analyzed by the software program. One limitation was that there was no monitoring how many times one person could take the survey. There were instances where the responses were identical and the survey was taken about five minutes apart. Another limitation was that about ten people contacted the district office to let them know there was an error in the system because it would not allow them to complete the survey. The company stated it may have been something on the individuals computer. However, as long as the person hit next the survey was saved. A final limitation was trying to find the best and most efficient way to get the information out to the community members. There was a very low turn out from the community. Conclusion- The Dakota School District created a survey to collect information on if the school district was providing adequate communication to the parents and other stakeholders in the district. The subcategories of this question were: 1) To collect information on the transparency of the school district 2) To reinvest in trust capital with communication 3) To ensure a vocal minority does not dominate (overwhelm the goals and agenda of the district) 4) To have the parents and community help to continue to move the district forward. Elementary School- Through the results of the survey the elementary school is informing their parents more than adequately(91%). There does appear to be a need to inform the parents more about the academic progress of the students. The top ways the respondents wanted to receive information is through and the parent portal (Skyward). There was also an interest to keep the newsletter as a form of information 6 P age

7 7 P age Jr./Sr. High School- The majority of the respondents for the Jr./Sr. High agreed of strongly agreed that they were informed about activities at the school. Over 90% of the respondents felt that the school provides adequate information about the academic progress of the students. The respondents did feel that communication can be improved through the use of , text and the newsletter. The top method of communication for parents was through . District Social Media- Over half of the respondents stated that they followed the Dakota School District facebook page (Dakota Community School District). There is not a large following on the district twitter However, this number has grown since the survey was completed. The Dakota School District website ( is visited by 98% of the parents that responded to the survey. There was a very low response to community members visiting the website. The Skyward link, lunch menus, and academic and sports calendars receive the most hits on the district website. To make the site better for parents and community members the respondents would like to see better sports information and make it more user friendly. District communication- 90% of the respondents believe that the district provides adequate opportunities for people to express concerns and opinions. The respondents did share that the use of and the newsletter could help improve communication. Community- There was a low turn out of community respondents to the survey. However, the top ways the community would like to receive information was through facebook and the newsletter. The community wanted to learn more about the academics of the district, dates of events and the financial status of the district. Overall Climate- The district received high marks in in all of the climate questions (Education, Facilities, transportation, Food Service). Areas to strengthen would be the areas of food service and transportation. 87% of the respondents felt the district was excellent or satisfactory. Further study and solutions-the district will continue to identify ways to communicate with the community members without children in the district. The Dakota School District is proud of the high number of positive results of the survey and will continue to strengthen the district s strengths and improve the areas of weakness. Even though there are many successes with communication, the district will work on the following initiatives to increase the positive interactions and communication between the parents, students, and community members. 1) Utilize the Skyward Parent Portal at the Elementary School 2) Update the student database with parent address

8 3) Send newsletter and other major event information through blast, facebook, twitter, website 4) Investigate how other districts communicate with the stakeholders that do not have children in the school district 5) Provide the newsletter on facebook, , twitter 6) Have a hard copy of the newsletter at sporting activities and other events 7) Continue to provide annual parent information meetings throughout the year with principals, superintendent and school board members 8) Add a News section to the district website and investigate ways to make the site more user friendly 9) Investigate a system that allows for mass communication 10) Implement electronic board reporting to help with community involvement 11) Provide a contact button on the website for individuals to contact the school district 8 P age

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