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Rest of the Story: DCSD Community Relations

In a recent story titled “Vying to have voices heard,” the Douglas County News-Press attacks communication efforts made by the Douglas County School District’s Community Relations team. We would like to provide some factual details that were left out of the story.

Three years ago, DCSD embarked on a transformational journey to completely and systemically reinvent itself. With a focus on Safety, Choice, World Class Education and System Performance, DCSD is blazing an innovative trail in education.

The media story referenced above states: “The National School Public Relations Association says schools need a PR professional now ‘more than ever.’”

In DCSD, we couldn’t agree more.

We heard loud and clear five years ago from parents, staff and community members that poor communication was the biggest issue in DCSD. We answered by revamping the team and offering new and improved tools used to deliver accurate and timely information, as people have different preferences on how they receive news, emergency notifications and other updates.

Today, DCSD communication efforts are better than ever. The Community Relations team uses a broad range of tools to communicate with parents, staff, students and community members. Updated and accurate information is available in a number of formats including telephone town halls, the DCSD mobile app, DougTV, Board Briefing, social media, electronic newsletters and more.

Does this cost money? Yes. The re-design and launch of a new District website is the largest expenditure recently undertaken by the Community Relations team. Technology changes rapidly and we are taking advantage of new developments for the sake of efficiency and content delivery.

The reporter who authored this piece made absolutely no attempt to contact any member of the DCSD Community Relations team for comment or clarification on this story.

Repeated open records requests filed by this reporter in the weeks leading up to this story were responded to by DCSD and name the members of the Community Relations team - all seven of them. However, the story claims that the department includes 14 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. This is inaccurate.

The DCSD Community Relations team is currently comprised of seven employees. When looking at the 2014-15 adopted budget, it is easy to see that two groups – Community Relations and Community Partnerships – are lumped together into one budget. Seven FTE positions are allocated to the DCSD Senior Employee Program and are not part of the Community Relations team. The Senior Employee Program is an invaluable program that allows students and seniors alike to gain knowledge and experience that spans over multi-generations. Involving seniors in our schools builds genuine community. We average 100 seniors a year in the program. In fact, the program is so popular that there is a constant waiting list for seniors wanting to join. As one of the lowest funded school districts in the metro area, the DCSD Senior Employee Program also fills the gap where our schools have experienced cuts in state funding. This program accounts for approximately $142,000 of the listed budget, bringing the Community Relations budget to approximately $792,000.

It is unfortunate that some repeatedly attempt to hurt our excellent district by spreading misinformation. This is one more reason why we improved our education and communication efforts. DCSD is committed to ensuring the entire Douglas County community has accurate information in a way that best meets their needs.

The Community Relations team is committed to and prides itself on providing factual and timely information. The team will continue to do so.

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