Texas district embraces ‘always on’ community conversation to ‘listen, learn, lead’
Fort Bend ISD is the seventh-largest district in Texas, serving over 71,000 students and employing over 9,000 staff members. Fort Bend is also one of the most diverse districts in the country, with a student population that is 29 percent African-American, 19 percent white, 26 percent Hispanic and 22 percent Asian, comprising a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds.
In April of 2013, incoming superintendent Charles Dupre found a district facing a number of challenges, including significant budget cuts and reduced staff size, increased class sizes and declining morale. “Our community wanted increased access to district leadership,” says Dupre. “They wanted to have more involvement in the direction of the district.” Dupre sought to win back community trust and support through better communication. To help develop a new communication plan incorporating his commitment to review and respond to all feedback, Dupre turned to K12 Insight in June of 2013.
K12 Insight provides communication technologies specifically designed for school districts, enabling administrators to elicit feedback from parents, staff, students and community members. K12 Insight also helps administrators obtain detailed feedback on specific topics; analyze, interpret and understand the subsequent findings to make informed decisions; and then communicate those findings back to the groups impacted by those decisions. “I believe that listening to the school community is very important,” says Dupre. “So we designed a communication plan that would engage parents, staff and students to help make their voices heard.” With the help of K12 Insight, Fort Bend created an “always on feedback system” on the district website that enables any member of the community to submit feedback. Called Chat with Charles — a precursor to K12 Insight’s Let’s Talk! — this feedback system allows anyone to submit questions, comments, concerns or suggestions about the direction of the district anytime from anywhere. “We wanted people to know the superintendent cared, was listening to them, and would respond to them in a timely manner,” says Dupre. “The reaction has exceeded our expectations in terms of how much goodwill it has built for us.”
To date, the district has received thousands of submissions, each routed to the appropriate administrator for response. Dupre directly answers some feedback and regularly reviews all submissions, addressing common themes on his blog. K12 Insight’s Let’s Talk! technology also provided detailed analysis of responses. From October to December 2013, Chat with Charles averaged 9-13 responses per day and 328 responses per month from staff (45 percent), parents/guardians (34 percent), students (11 percent) and community members (10 percent). Nearly half of all submissions were concerns, followed by questions (20 percent), suggestions (18 percent), comments (10 percent) and compliments (4 percent).
“When you hear from so many stakeholders, you can follow trends to identify problems and then analyze the data to address them,” says Dupre. “This effort has opened the door for communication and engagement in our district. People are telling me they have made a connection with our district and with me as a leader.” K12 Insight has also helped Fort Bend conduct staff, parent and student focus groups to help develop surveys, which will target each specific group to measure the engagement of each and identify areas in which they can improve. “Anyone can create a survey, but K12 Insight takes you through the process of engaging people to make sure the most important issues in your district are explored, and then provides the technology to analyze the results and guide your decisions,” says Dupre. “K12 Insight understands all angles of community engagement. This is part of the fabric of our communications plan now and will continue to be in the future.”
For more information, go to www.k12insight.com.