Audit offers Re-1 communications critique
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A broad critique of communication efforts in the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 offers several suggestions on ways the district can improve its public and internal staff relations.
Among the recommendations in a recent report prepared by the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) for Re-1 are to overhaul the district’s website to make it more visually appealing and easier to navigate.
Other recommendations include developing a strategic plan to improve both internal and external communications through the use of technology, keeping taxpayers informed about Re-1 schools, reaching out to businesses and civic organizations, and making a more concerted effort to engage the Latino community.
Re-1 schools should also consider hiring a full-time communications professional, according to the recommendations contained in the audit report.
The school board contracted with CASB in March to conduct the communications audit. The consulting firm Schoolhouse Communications also assisted in the study.
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The audit included interviews, focus groups with parents, staff and community members in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, an online staff survey and an analysis of the communication tools currently being used by the district.
Four key issues were identified in the study, according to the report issued in late June and presented to the Re-1 school board earlier this month. They include:
• A lack of a planned and strategic communication program has left the impression that the district does a poor job of communicating.
• The school board and new superintendent must rebuild trust with the staff and credibility with the community in order to gain support for the district’s work.
• The district must communicate better with and engage its large Latino community.
• Strategies are needed to inform staff and community about where the district is headed and celebrate its success.
The school board will continue its review of the report and consider steps to develop a strategic communications plan at its regular meeting tonight. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at the District Office in Glenwood Springs.
One of those steps will be for the district to begin developing a strategic plan to implement some of the recommendations, said Diana Sirko, interim Re-1 superintendent.
“We may contract with someone to write a plan of action that we can use to articulate how we will proceed,” she said.
Updating the district website and developing a marketing plan could also be among the next steps, Sirko said.
However, hiring a full-time communications director is probably not in the cards at this time, given ongoing budget constraints and more pressing demands for financial resources, she said.
“We may be able to combine it with some other tasks,” she said. “But it’s probably more of a long-term decision that could come out of addressing each of these issues as we develop a communications plan.”
Audit participants applauded the new school board, including three new members elected in the November 2011 election, for “making an effort to communicate more openly and listen to the public.”
The audit report also noted that, “the assistant superintendent of business and finance [Shannon Pelland] explains complicated budget information in easy-to-understand terms.”
Communication with and efforts to involve the district’s large Latino community could be improved, the audit report states.
“Although efforts have been made to translate some of the information that is distributed to parents, these efforts fall far short of what is needed,” audit participants said.
“With a significant Latino population across the district, and in Carbondale in particular, focus group participants noted that the district cannot truly improve communications until it gets a handle on how to inform and engage Latino parents,” the audit report states.
The CASB communications audit can be found on the home page of the Re-1 school district’s website, at http://www.rfsd.k12.co.us.
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