Bonneville Joint School District 93’s school board reviewed a report on its communication issues during a public work session on Wednesday.
District 91 hired Patron Insight Inc., a national consulting company for school districts and other public entities, to provide a communications analysis for the district and recommend some potential changes. For the communication report, Patron Insight interviewed 18 “key opinion leaders” among the district’s patrons to get their opinions on how the district approached communication in general and specifically for the $43 million bond run in August for a new elementary school and high school renovations.
Coupled with previous public surveys completed in recent months, the leadership planned to use this feedback to begin improving their local reputation. Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme cautioned the board that it could take several years to reach full public support and trust.
“I feel like things have been going well in the district, and I assumed the broader perception was the same. This work really shows there is still an underlying distrust,” Woolstenhulme said.
Patron Insight CEO Ken DeSieghardt attended the work session over video conference to help the district go over the findings of the report. He said the district should double down on their current slogan, “Student success by design,” going forward to emphasize what the schools were doing to help its students.
The interviewees largely criticized the handling of the August bond election, the failure of which came down to a combination of the plan, cost and communications. They also pointed out an uneven approach the district had in reaching out, which left many supporters of the district unable to name specific things it did well.
“They get a lot of information out there, but I don’t always know what the objective is,” one unnamed opinion leader said in the report.
The communications report made several recommendations for the district when it came to the way to communicated and engaged with the public. The ideas ranged from creating style guidelines for all of the email and videos made by the schools to having school board members make multiple public presentations a year to the community.
“I don’t know what we need to present for the community, but I like that idea,” school board member Chad Dance said.
Several other recommendations fell onto Woolstenhulme. The report asked him to take on efforts such as an annual “State of the District” presentation and weekly emails to parents to best position himself as the face for the school district.
Both District 93 and Idaho Falls School District 91 have brought in Patron Insight in the last few years to conduct post-loss election surveys after failed bond attempts. Woolstenhulme provided a testimonial to the company about those surveys while he was the assistant superintendent, saying the findings had been “crucial to the success” of the Thunder Ridge High School bond in 2015.