Dear Pelham Community,
Last night, the results of the District-wide Communications Audit that was conducted last spring were presented at the Board of Education meeting. This audit, conducted by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA), was commissioned to assess the District’s communications program and make strategic recommendations based on industry best practices.
The audit utilized a robust community engagement process including a community survey that garnered nearly 1,000 responses from staff, parents/guardians, community members and high school students. The audit also solicited qualitative feedback through focus groups with parents and faculty at all three levels, administrators, support and clerical staff, senior leadership and Board of Education members.
Community engagement data was used in conjunction with a review of the District’s communications plans and materials to assess the overall communications program. Strengths include stakeholders' appreciation for the District’s high-quality academics, extracurricular activities, caring and dedicated teachers and strong student supports. Challenges include the lack of a strategic communications plan and inconsistency in communications across the District and school levels.
Based on the key findings the report makes eight top-level recommendations with associated action steps. The recommendations are as follows:
- Develop a Strategic Communications Plan
- Finalize and implement a Crisis Communication Plan
- Focus on Improving internal communications and engagement
- Strengthen the engagement of staff members in the district’s decision-making process
- Develop and implement protocols, structures and training for those responsible for communicating
- Enhance the effectiveness of external communications
- Expand the capacity of the Public Information Office to focus on strategic communication needs
- Develop and implement digital marketing strategies to improve message delivery
While some recommendations may take months, if not years, to fully implement, the district has already begun taking certain actions based on the findings. These include:
- Continuing our partnership with NSPRA to build a multi-year Strategic Communications Plan
- Better preparing for crisis events by disseminating an Emergency Guide to parents and staff
- Seeking to better inform employees by creating and sharing a pocket-guide for staff to equip them with key facts and highlights about the District and launching a monthly employee newsletter
Importantly, the District is also preparing to launch ParentSquare as a new communications tool later this fall. Parentsquare will be used by the District and schools for external facing mass email, text and voice messaging. Families will also have the option of downloading the free ParentSquare mobile app. This new tool will be a vital asset in bringing consistency to our communications practices. More information will be forthcoming about the transition to ParentSquare in the near future.
The Pelham Public Schools remains steadfast in its commitment to address communication challenges and continue to strengthen the relationship between the district and its key stakeholders. We look forward to implementing these recommendations and sharing our progress along the way. Additional information about the audit report can be found on the District website.
Cheryl H. Champ, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools