Improving communication with its employees and providing expanded opportunities for parent and community involvement are just two of the ways the Steamboat Springs School District can improve itself, according to a final communication audit report issued by the National Public School Relations Association.
The report was sent to the district a little more than four months after an NSPRA representative came to Steamboat Springs and led focus groups with nearly 200 district stakeholders, including teachers, parents, community leaders and nonparent taxpayers.
The communication audit was the result of a request from a group of concerned parents for a survey to address district issues and personnel. The School Board elected instead to hire NSPRA to perform a detailed communications audit that would provide recommendations to help the district move forward and address specific issues.
NSPRA's 18 recommendations to improve communication are part of a 60-page final report district officials are preparing to release.
One NSPRA recommendation calls for the school district to clearly communicate the role, function and responsibilities of the School Board. At a retreat Tuesday, the School Board discussed compiling pamphlets detailing policy governance, the role of the School Board and the role of the superintendent. Board members said pamphlets may help stakeholders to better understand the workings of the school system.
Also discussed Tuesday was the possibility of creating School Board meeting summaries, which would list and provide details on what was discussed and what, if any, action was taken at each board meeting and study session.
Meeting summaries are one technique for improving the district's communication with its employees. NSPRA also recommended creating an electronic news bulletin for district staff, compiling new employee orientation packets, training staff to be district ambassadors and maximizing the use of e-mail and voice mail.
Superintendent Donna Howell said the district leadership team -- formerly referred to as the administrative team -- agrees internal communication needs to be improved.
The school district also is considering the formation of a Communication Advisory Team to deal specifically with communication issues, Howell said Thursday. The team likely would consist of current district employees.
"We have the talent and resources from within our current structure," Howell said.
Reviewing and refining district committees, providing choices for parental involvement, developing strategies for reaching nonparents and creating guidelines for responding to requests from the public are techniques recommended by NSPRA to expand the opportunities for parent and community communication and involvement, according to the report.
Howell said the district will provide hard copies of the final NSPRA report to each school in the district school. All focus group participants should receive a letter from Howell within the next two weeks informing them of the arrival of the completed report. An executive summary of the report may be sent to all focus group participants while the district figures out how to distribute the full report, Howell said.
"We're trying to balance getting all the information out there with the costs of printing hundreds of copies of the report," she said.
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