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El Paso County Colorado District 49


Over the last two months, weíve conducted several surveys, especially our ìBig Rocksî survey and our culture and climate survey. One of the patterns weíve observed is that we still have to earn back the confidence and belief of our community. One frustrated teacher challenged us to ìstop talking about trust and DO SOMETHING about it.î The surveys are anonymous so I canít engage directly with that person, but I do want to focus my comments here in response to that plea.One of the best ways to erode trust is to keep people guessing. When we are silent about critical or common issues, people get confused, cynical, angry, apathetic Ö or worse. Being kept in the dark never makes anyone feel more confident or supportive. So what are we DOING about that?One effort is to increase our presence on social media. Through Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and Youtube; we are using free social media sites to offer more information and interaction to our community. During a recent school evacuation, when roof construction caused a gas leak at Falcon Middle School; we used a variety of private (FlashAlerts and email) as well as public (social and local media) channels to communicate with parents.The reunification process was inconvenient, but we were able to evacuate, relocate, feed, and reunify 100 percent of those middle school students by the normal end of the school day. Improved communications played a major role in helping students, staff and parents make the most of a disruptive situation. We appreciate the kudos that parents expressed in person and electronically, because that affirmation tells us that our efforts are paying off.Weíve also been part of some intense and productive conversations about our weather delays and cancellations. From students on Twitter to parents and staff on Facebook, we appreciate the rapid feedback we get as we assess, decide and publish our decisions related to weather disruptions. We know that you canít please everyone ñ and thatís not our goal ñ but you can respect everyoneís input and try to respond in a straightforward way. Teachers and parents in particular have given us very constructive criticism and suggestions to improve our performance. Thatís been a major emphasis this winter, and weíre encouraged by the quality of our growing interaction through the year.Another aspect of trust-building through communications relates to the leadership of our communications team. We are thrilled that Matt Meister is bringing the experience and community connections he forged as KRDOís chief meteorologist to serve in District 49. As our director of communications, Matt will be an excellent representative for the district, and brings fresh eyes to all our communication and community engagement efforts. (Iím also excited to add Mattís weather expertise to our snow day decisions.)But Matt wonít be working alone. Our communications team has spent months working behind the scenes to better understand how our parents and staff use our website and what we can do to present information in a way that is more accessible and consistent. As part of an overhaul to our communications work, we are upgrading our website to a more responsive and intuitive interface ñ linked more closely to our schools and their communities. We are building a resource to allow staff or parent logins leading to personalized content, school-specific information, and a much more mobile-friendly design.We are nowhere near satisfied with our communications efforts, but we know that improved clarity and responsiveness will go a long way toward building trusting relationships with the thousands of people who count on our district for employment, education and community. Thank you for giving us great feedback, holding us to a high standard, and helping us grow closer to your expectations.

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