In Deerfield, Using Community Feedback to Stay a Step Ahead

shutterstock_199125335School district leaders know the importance of connecting with stakeholders, particularly parents, students, and teachers. Imagine how much different our decisions would be if we could effectively take the pulse of our community, they say — and they’re right.

But, as Cathy Kedjidjian, coordinator of communications and community relations for the Deerfield Public Schools in Illinois can attest, there’s a difference between wanting something and having the resources, and the time, to make it a reality for your district.

Limited resources are something Kedjidjian and school system superintendent Michael Lubelfeld know a little something about. When the two sat down recently to discuss the possibility of deploying a new communications solution in the district, they had to consider a host of initiatives already on their plate. Projects included a new 1:1 computing initiative for students, the integration of a food allergy plan, and the scheduled build out of new science and STEM labs.

Given the district’s relatively small size — DPS 109 enrolls about 3,000 students in small suburb 25 miles north of Chicago — Kedjidjian knew asking staff to take on another project would be a tough sell. She admits to being concerned herself.

“I was hesitant,” she says in a recent conversation. With so many initiatives going on at once, the prospect of adding yet another project to that list was overwhelming. As a smaller district, Kedjidjian knows that resources come at a premium.

Efficient, yet powerful
The key was to find a solution that was efficient enough to work within the district’s existing infrastructure, but robust enough to help administrators adequately address the growing communications gap between the school system and its stakeholders, especially parents.

In the end, she says, it came down to the importance of making people feel heard.

“Every administrator in every school district has the responsibility to communicate with their stakeholders, with their community members,” Kedjidjian says. “That person’s job isn’t to talk, it’s to listen.”

By providing new ways for community members to interact with the school system — the district homepage and every school homepage now features a special button that stakeholders can click to file comments and automatically route those comments to the right person — Deerfield has established a new culture of communication, one that helps administrators, “react, respond, and plan ahead” for potentially thorny issues or challenges.

“If you can know that information as it’s bubbling up, before it hits hot status, then you are ahead of the game,” Kedjidjian explains.

Learn more about how Deerfield is working with K12 Insight, including how the district effectively manages staff resistance to change, in our interview with Cathy below.

The Power of Listening from K12 Insight on Vimeo.

Author: Corey Murray

Education writer and editor

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