1 Dunlap Community Unit School District # Communication Plan Updated August 1, 2014
2 Table of Contents PART 1: INTRODUCTION... 4 District Strategic Plan... 4 PART 2: COMMUNICATION PHILOSOPHY, GUIDING PRINCIPLES AND GOALS... 6 Philosophy... 6 Guiding Principles... 6 Truthfulness... 6 Transparency... 6 Continuous Improvement... 7 Goals... 7 PART 3: IDENTIFYING STAKEHOLDER GROUPS... 7 Stakeholders... 7 PART 4: TOOLS AND PROCESSES... 8 Electronic and Media Tools... 8 Print Tools... 8 In Person Tools and Programs... 8 PART 5: COMMUNICATIONS EFFORTS... 9 Website... 9 Mobil Apps... 9 Expand the Information Delivery Options and Choices for Stakeholders... 9 Easy to Access, Integrated Calendar Issue specific Frequently Asked Questions Communicate with Auxiliary Community Organizations Creating the Dunlap Schools Essentials Pack Direct Mail Video Segments Back to School Nights Coffee and Conversation with Dunlap Schools Disaster Communication Volunteer Programs Utilize Shared Leadership Team Structures to Cascade Communication Implement a Key Communicators Group... 11
3 Formal Business Partnerships Focus Groups Training External Support Up/Down Stream Communication Suppliers and Other Educational Entities Open Doors to Dunlap Staff & Stakeholder Communication/Contributions Promote the Successes of Dunlap Personnel Part 6: Assessment and Accountability Part 7: Implementation Timeline... 14
4 PART 1: INTRODUCTION Dunlap School District recognizes that maintaining an open dialogue with our community is a vital component of District operations. It is further understood that as the District continually redefines how to best utilize its limited resources, a constant effort must be made to understand the educational and organizational expectations of our stakeholders while regularly informing the public of the performance of our schools and challenges facing the District. The Dunlap School District Board of Education and District staff is committed to goal 4 of our strategic plan which reads To ensure a satisfying and productive partnership with families and the community. This document is a comprehensive communications plan that focuses on the District s unique relationships with a wide array of stakeholders. In addition, the District web site serves as the primary source for communications related tools District Strategic Plan In 2009, the Dunlap Community Unit School District embarked on a journey to set a course for the future. A team of 38 stakeholders (including students, parents, teachers, Dunlap Education Association, administrators, school board members, community members and government elected officials) worked together during the school year to answer questions such as: What will the future look like in 5 years? What will the Dunlap School District need to do to succeed? How will we know if we have been successful? What are the challenges we will be facing? Will we be ready for those challenges? What does the desired future state of our District look like 5 years from now? How will we systemically transform our District from good to great? The Dunlap Strategic Plan is the answer to these questions and our staff and stakeholders are pivotal to assuring our success in accomplishing all that we have set out to do in the next five years. On the following page is what is referred to as the Plan on a Page which contains our District s mission, vision, values & beliefs and goals. This document is posted in all schools, classrooms and workspaces of employees as a reminder of our key focus To empower all students to excel in a global society. In addition, each school and support service department has created their own Plan on a Page which identifies the mission and goals for each entity. Although the mission and goals may be different, the vision, values and beliefs remain unchanged and constant in all Plans on a Page. Each school and support service department s Plans on a Page are posted online (listed on the left side menu) at A key function of this communication plan is to ensure that the community and all stakeholders have an understanding of our strategic direction and how it is communicated through the Plan on a Page.
6 PART 2: COMMUNICATION PHILOSOPHY, GUIDING PRINCIPLES AND GOALS Communicating within the educational environment is a unique endeavor where the goal is not only to inform, but to also be transparent to a wide array of stakeholders, including students, parents, staff, taxpayers and others with whom the District may or may not have a direct connection. Philosophy The Dunlap School District is committed to improving the lines of communication both internally and with the community at large. We will use all means possible to improve communications with all stakeholders. By continuing to build ties within the community and to keep stakeholders informed of all aspects of the school system, we believe that staff and stakeholders will support the good work that takes place in our schools. Guiding Principles The following principles guide the strategic communication plan. We believe that Effective public engagement is essential to creating an environment in which students, staff, families, and community members participate and contribute. Communication is a primary function of leadership and a responsibility of all employees. Well informed employees and citizens provide positive community support. Open, two way communication is critical to building trust with stakeholders. Accurate, understandable, and timely communication is essential to the decision making processes of the school system. Using a variety of sources and strategies enhances the school system s ability to communicate effectively and thoroughly. Communications strategies must be explicitly linked to the strategic mission and goals of the school system. In short, three core principles will guide our work: truthfulness, transparency and continuous improvement. Truthfulness Dunlap School District must be honest and transparent in communicating with the public. The single most important factor in the success of any communications effort is trust. The District must do more than simply tell the truth; it must also be wary of overselling achievements or presenting information in any manner that appears less than completely forthright. Moreover, the District will provide reliable information, for which it will be wholly accountable to stakeholders, and will fully engage the public in the challenges and opportunities it faces. Transparency Through its communications efforts, Dunlap School District will raise the level of dialogue about its schools by educating stakeholders on District processes, educational philosophies and methodologies, relevant state and federal issues and laws, budget information, facilities and any
7 other critical issues. The District must continue to invite any and all questions, responding as quickly, clearly and completely as possible. Continuous Improvement The Dunlap School District has embraced a philosophy of continuous improvement. As in other areas, the District will continue to improve in its communications efforts. To this end, the District s progress will be regularly measured against clear, well defined benchmarks through a constant process of evaluation aimed at improving performance which is defined in the action plan at the end of the document. Goals Goals are listed in no particular order of priority and should be recognized as integrated activities for achieving long term communication success. 1. Develop and maintain positive, collaborative relationships with all stakeholders. 2. Utilize a variety of media to maximize awareness of the District s Strategic Plan including; mission, vision, values and goals. 3. Establish an effective employee communication plan to improve internal communication and employee engagement. 4. Establish strong, positive connections between individual schools and their communities. 5. Achieve coordinated communications, both internally and externally, regarding safety issues and crisis management. 6. Create key messages and talking points to establish one clear voice throughout all communication channels. 7. Establish a clear brand identity for the District to help communicate our mission and vision. It should align to our strategic plan and be included on all District communication in order to become our identity (i.e.: Empowering students to excel globally, Educate, Empower and Excel! etc.). 8. Maintain a proactive media relations program to assist District communications on local, state, national and international levels. 9. Utilize effective operational practices to provide good customer service, increased efficiency and quality communication methods. PART 3: IDENTIFYING STAKEHOLDER GROUPS This communication plan aims to reach all people living in the Dunlap School District taxpayer zone. However, in order to effectively implement the plan, it is necessary to break our audience down into smaller community stakeholder groups. These groups are as follows: Stakeholders Parents whose children attend a school in Dunlap School District, and live in the Dunlap community
8 Community members, who do not have children enrolled at a Dunlap School District school, but live in the District boundaries Resident senior citizens Parents of preschool aged children Parents of graduates Alumni Existing students District employees Local/regional elected officials of other governmental bodies (Mayor, Liaison, City Manager, County Board Chair, Sheriff, States Attorney, County Administrator, etc.) PART 4: TOOLS AND PROCESSES There are several tools and processes that will be used in our communication efforts. The list below is by no means exhaustive, but rather identifies the most commonly used communication and feedback tools and processes currently at our disposal. Electronic and Media Tools District website Text messages (for non critical news) District blog Teacher blogs/ s School newsletters RSS feeds (for integrating District news into other websites) Online District activity and events calendar ALERTNOW! and text messages (for critical news) District informational materials (hard copy and online) Direct mail Mobil applications (for iphone, Android, Blackberry, ipad, etc.) Heads Up communications relating to key District issues that may impact other entities/organizations Print Tools Board Splinters School Newsletters Quarterly Newsletters District Flyer (available to realtors, at all schools, board meetings and other functions) In Person Tools and Programs Back to School nights School open houses
9 Meetings with community groups and advocacy organizations (i.e.: PTO, Boosters, Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.) Meetings with other governmental agencies (joint meetings, etc.) or other key employers Lunch and learns with key individuals or groups Community information nights Volunteer programs Focus groups Dunlap State of the Schools address Meetings with Key Communicators, alumni, former board members, past superintendents and administrators, etc. PART 5: COMMUNICATIONS EFFORTS The creation and launch of this communication plan requires careful consideration of the District s ability to implement the plan. The plan is intended to make the heaviest impact and gain the highest return on investment, in terms of both time and money. Key communication strategies are identified below and will be further defined in an action plan. *Note that not all strategies will be implemented immediately but rather provide future direction for enhancing communications. Website The District s website serves as the primary communications vehicle for the District. The website will be revised to improve access to information and to enable more staff throughout the District to provide news and views to the website s knowledge base. Continued efforts will be made to expand the website s capabilities to meet the expectations of our communities, as time and technology allow. In addition, school websites will be more standardized and will also include great communication tools. Many of the communication efforts included in this plan (below) will have a connection to the District website. Mobil Apps Mobil applications (ie: ipad, Blackberry, Android, etc.) will be created to share key District news and information in a condensed and summarized format. Expand the Information Delivery Options and Choices for Stakeholders Community stakeholders will be able to opt in to receive news and information from the District through a variety of channels based on individual preference. What s more, community stakeholders will be able to manage their own information delivery preferences, choosing to receive very specific categories of information through different, specific channels (ie: Constant Contacthttp://www.constantcontact.com/index.jsp, AlertNow, etc.). Options for news delivery may include: voice mail messages, text messages, messages, etc.
10 Easy to Access, Integrated Calendar The District website will be reconfigured to enable multiple District calendars to be blended and easily accessible, with upcoming events given high visibility on the home page. The expanded, fully integrated calendar will be sortable by website visitors and calendars will be open for active subscription by website visitors. Issue specific Frequently Asked Questions Creating FAQs is a powerful method for presenting complex information in a way that community stakeholders can embrace. FAQs about issues of specific interest will be created to address the myriad of questions facing our community stakeholders. These FAQs will be made available on the website, with portions distilled for print formatting. The website will also feature a means by which site visitors can submit their own questions; this method will have a response guarantee from District staff. Communicate with Auxiliary Community Organizations Auxiliary and advocacy organizations (e.g., PTO, Boosters, etc.) are important not only because of the critical support and programming that they provide, but also because these organizers typically have a deep connection with a widespread network of families across many stakeholder groups. Community organizations (such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Junior League, Retired Teachers and Administrators, Alumni Association, etc.) are also groups to communicate with regularly. Providing a communication channel to those members of the different groups will enable these organizations to share their perspectives in a manner that creates opportunities for both the District and the organizations. The District will ensure a presence with key community organizations. Creating the Dunlap Schools Essentials Pack For new members of our stakeholder communities especially those with students enrolled for the first time providing ample information in advance of school is critical to ensuring the success of the student and their family. The District will design a new 101 style information pack to include with all mailings delivered to families in advance of the school year. This information pack will serve as a primer for families new to the District, presenting clear information on policy and programming, as well as how to information related to daily life in the District. This information will also be made available to key employers, home owners associations and realtors. Direct Mail Newsletters and District reports are key for sharing information with community stakeholders, particularly those who do not have a natural connection with the District. The District will enhance print communications to all residents in the Dunlap tax zone. Video Segments The District will work to plan, record and publish video segments to communicate Dunlap School District news and information. Video will be embedded on the District website and blog and be made available on demand.
11 Back to School Nights The District will redesign back to school/open house activities to enable a more in depth introduction to the programs and policies at Dunlap School District. As is customary, teachers will perform the majority of the heavy lifting in helping families learn more about the daily operations and expectations for their classrooms. The District will standardize particular messages and communication to be shared during these school functions to ensure consistency. Coffee and Conversation with Dunlap Schools The District will embark on a program to bring smaller, in person, informal discussions over coffee. These coffee talks will be led by the superintendent and other administrators and will be topic based and published well in advance of each discussion. The time allotted will be predictable, as will the format. The District will work to schedule these discussions on a recurring basis to better enable community stakeholders to plan and contribute when they can. Disaster Communication Effective communication during a disaster ensures organization and efficiency when it comes to communicating with stakeholders and the public. Communication systems and planning will enable the District to stay connected with staff and stakeholders and keep the public informed during a crisis/disaster. Volunteer Programs The District will clearly define volunteer opportunities for community stakeholders. This will include the development of a volunteer Job Posting wall on the website, which will list ongoing and one time projects that volunteers can choose to support/volunteer for. Volunteer guidelines and expectations will be clearly defined and well articulated, so volunteers understand not only how they can help, but also how important their assistance is to the District. Utilize Shared Leadership Team Structures to Cascade Communication The District has the following leadership teams that can serve as a communication channel to cascade information throughout the school system. Through the use of the following leadership teams: District Leadership Teams; School level Building Leadership Teams; Support Service Leadership Teams; and Professional Learning Communities; information can be communicated at all levels. Implement a Key Communicators Group Heads Up communication can assist in the District s communication efforts. The Key Communicator program is a valuable aspect of the school district's ongoing, two way communications effort with parents and other citizens in the district. The Key Communicator concept is a proven public relations tool in use by many school districts across the country. Public relations research supports the fact that the most effective and efficient communication is accomplished on a personal level. Key Communicators are kept informed about district news through meetings, periodical mailings, online information and personal contact and agree to share/communicate the information to their constituent groups. This group can also provide input on key decisions being considered.
12 Formal Business Partnerships The District will embark on an initiative to ensure that every school has at least one formal two way business partnership. These partnerships will be clearly defined through a School Business Partnership Agreement that will stipulate how the two way relationship between the school and the business will function. Focus Groups As with surveys, focus groups enable the District and stakeholders to garner a deeper understanding of the trends and specific issues uncovered by surveys. We will use the Harris Stakeholder Satisfaction Survey results to formulate focus groups to ensure we have a process to hear the voice of the customer. Face to face focus groups will be utilized to better understand the perspective and needs of stakeholders. Training Provide ongoing training and support for administrator s effective communication with staff and the public. Provide continuing training sessions as part of principal s meetings on how to train teachers and staff to communicate their school s message. Conduct customer service training for all front line employees/secretaries and others who interact with our public on a regular basis. External Support Subscribe to school communication publications (National School Public Relations Association) and relay pertinent ideas and information to administrators. Benchmark other effective organizations to obtain best practices in communication including school systems and other organizations (ie: hospital, Caterpillar, etc.). Up/Down Stream Communication Identify upstream customers (birth to 5 organizations and individuals, child care providers, private schools ect.) that serve children before they become our students and downstream customers (higher education organizations, colleges/universities, major employers, etc.) that our students interact with after leaving our school system. Create communication systems to seek input, understand needs, identify educational effectiveness and provide overall communication. Suppliers and Other Educational Entities Create systems of communication and enhance partnerships with suppliers (vendors, contractors, ect.) and other educational entities (neighboring school districts, private schools, home schoolers, etc.). This includes involving suppliers in the improvement of products and services and communicating with other educational entities to better understand the needs of families that choose not to attend Dunlap School District. Use the input to drive continuous improvement. Open Doors to Dunlap Identify ways to invite stakeholders into Dunlap School District. Implement systems that encourage and welcome the public to learn more about Dunlap Schools. Participants could include senior citizen groups, community members, civic leaders, government leaders, etc. Examples may include:
13 Develop program for touring District facilities. This might include bus tours of schools and facilities. Tours can be narrated by appropriate staff members and will vary depending on needs. Establish an annual State of the Schools report delivered by the Superintendent to the public. Provide key financial, demographic and educational programming updates to the community. Staff & Stakeholder Communication/Contributions Create process and systems to allow staff and stakeholders to push information to the District. Some examples include: Create quick, web based form for staff/parents/community to report news/events or activities to the Superintendent s office. Create a blog submission portal for any and all staff or stakeholders to submit blog postings for consideration according to pre set criteria and parameters. Implement a Stakeholder Suggestion process whereby stakeholders can submit creative and innovative suggestions or cost saving ideas. Implement a recognition system for suggestions that are implemented. Include key messaging on the phone system while callers are on hold. Promote the Successes of Dunlap Personnel Recognize staff contributions in a variety of ways including: Highlight staff with articles in District communications pieces, outside media, and through recognition at events. Implement a Staff Recognition program for both years of service and above and beyond performance (ie: employee of the month, etc.). Prepare news releases in formats that match those used by the local media (standardized press release). Part 6: Assessment and Accountability The District will work to deploy a formal evaluation program to better gauge the pulse of our stakeholders and the effectiveness of our communication efforts. We will monitor trust, mutuality, commitment and satisfaction across all stakeholder communities, maintaining the ability to disaggregate the results in a number of relevant ways to drive continuous improvement in our communication efforts. We will administer the Harris Stakeholder Satisfaction Survey every other year while other, more frequent measures will also be deployed. Because different measurements work best in different situations, a tracking system will be developed to measure communication effectiveness. Benchmarking will be used to ascertain what communication strategies are being implemented in other school Districts. Focus groups will be conducted in groups of six to ten people to collect qualitative information as needed.
14 Surveys electronic surveys will be used to ascertain people s opinion and to collect quantitative information. The Communications Plan will be reviewed regularly as deemed necessary by the Superintendent or Board of Education. Part 7: Implementation Timeline Activity Fall 2012 Spring Shared Leadership Teams Complete! Key Communicators Group Complete! Constant Contact Complete! Stakeholder Contributions Complete! Website Complete! Focus Groups Complete! External Support Complete! "FAQ" Issue Specific Training Auxiliary Organizations Direct Mail Back to School Nights Integrated Calendar Dunlap Essentials Pack Coffee and Conversation Disaster Communication Formal Business Partnerships Up/Downstream Communication Mobil Apps "Open Doors" to Dunlap Ongoing Complete! Complete! Complete! Complete! Complete! Complete! Complete! Employee Recognition Video Segments Suppliers and Other Entities Volunteer Programs