Steamboat Springs After months of planning, a communications audit of the Steamboat Springs School District is near fruition.
A National School Public Relations Association auditor will arrive in Steamboat in late April to conduct about 17 focus groups, Board of Education member Paula Stephenson said.
A subcommittee formed to help prepare both the district and the NSPRA auditor for the audit has completed most of its work, which included identifying focus groups and assigning volunteers to those focus group, Stephenson said.
Each focus group is made up of common stakeholders. For example, one focus group will consist of district secretaries, one of elementary school teachers, one of parents of special education students and one of community and civic leaders with children in the school district, among others. Community members without district students also will be included in their own focus group.
About 10 to 15 people will comprise each focus group, and each group will meet for about an hour, Stephenson said.
The focus groups will be structured with a group of set questions, though participants will have an opportunity to raise concerns not addressed through the questions, Stephenson said.
"The point is not for special-interest groups to push forward their agenda," she said. "The point is to get general input on the district."
The purpose of the communications audit is to pinpoint district organizational issues and work toward possible solutions.
"This is about what's going on in the district and making sure the general voice is heard so we can have a plan to move forward," Stephenson said. "We need an idea of where the communication is breaking down in order to get better at what we're doing."
NSPRA will present a preliminary audit report to the district four to six weeks after the conclusion of the focus groups. A final report will be issued to the district shortly thereafter, and NSPRA auditors will return to Steamboat to publicly present the report at a school board meeting late this summer, Stephenson said.
Stephenson said she's excited for the audit because the final result will be a recommended action plan for the district. The action plan probably will prioritize organizational issues.
"I'm hoping they give us a real good plan," Stephenson said.
The school board hired NSPRA in January. The audit will cost the district approximately $10,000.
The audit stems from a request for a school district survey made by Citizens for Education, formerly Parents for Dr. D., in response to the conflict that erupted last year between Strawberry Park Principal John DeVincentis and Superintendent Cyndy Simms.
Simms and DeVincentis attended mediation to improve their professional relationship, and both say the mediation has been successful.
Citizens for Education requested a survey dealing with district issues and personnel, but the school board elected to go with focus groups. Surveys, Stephenson said, fail to provide a "why" or a plan for the future.
However, NSPRA communications audit surveys will be available for those who don't participate in focus groups.