Bainbridge Island School District underwent a communications audit last fall and is using the results to make improvements.
During the next couple of months, a strategic communications plan will be developed with the recommendations and presented to the board in the fall.
The National School Public Relations Association audit evaluated communication efforts with a snapshot of perceptions about BISD and baseline research with recommendations for improving communication efforts.
During the Feb. 9 school board meeting, BISD public relations officer Erin Bischoff provided an overview of the findings. The last time BISD underwent such an audit was in 2006, when communications were very different from today, she said.
“Back then, Myspace was the most popular website, Facebook hadn’t been launched yet, the iPhone hadn’t been released, and backpack flyers were at both the top list of how people got their communications,” said Bischoff, who remembered receiving critical information from notes pinned to the back of her son’s shirt with a safety pin.
The association conducted a survey with more than 700 participants and held 10 focus groups. The key findings:
BISD is viewed as high performing with high expectations and an emphasis on equity and diversity with a commitment to social and emotional health. The district has a small-town feel with close ties to local organizations. People move here for the schools, and “caring” was the most-used word to describe the district.
Respondents shared a concern about the possible adverse effect a high-expectation environment has on students’ mental health and behavior. People look to the district for answers and solutions for nearly all youth-centric problems. When it comes to communications, staff and community rated the district slightly above the national average, while families rated it about average. For trustworthiness, staff and community rated the district above average, while families rated it below average.
Bischoff said that participants want more information on the district’s budget and finances, and that communications should be more precise and more timely during a crisis. But some people said they were “swimming in emails.” Others said they felt communication “dries up” once their children graduate.
1. Develop a communications plan with measurable objectives to move the district forward with achieving its goals.
2. Develop standardized parent communications practices with outlined expectations across all schools.
3. Prioritize strengthening internal communications.
4. Enhance outreach and partnership activities with external audiences.
5. Update or redesign the district website.
6. Expand and enhance the board of directors’ communications.
7. Develop and implement a comprehensive crisis communications plan.
8. Evaluate and strengthen the district’s communication capacity and infrastructure.