A new year often brings new resolutions for improvement. At North County, thinking up resolutions started months earlier.
Superintendent Dr. Jeff Levy said when he arrived on the job, one of the six goals board members set before him was to analyze and improve communication throughout the district and among district stakeholders.
This fall, 406 North County employees, students and community members answered a 10-question survey designed to gauge their perceptions on district communication. The Daily Journal and other entities published a QR code containing a weblink to the survey.
Levy said, for a first-time communication survey, the response was fairly good. He hopes to release more surveys in the future. He said he appreciated everyone who took the time to thoughtfully answer and provide comments and ideas that gave better insights to the district’s performance.
“We had no preconceived notion going in,” he said. “I used a similar tool in my previous district, and the reason was, we were putting so much effort and energy into communication tools, but we weren’t really sure how well our constituents were engaging in those tools.”
He said sometimes, energy was concentrated on the wrong channels at the wrong time, similar to sending smoke signals at night.
“Man, we had Twitter handles for everything. Hashtag this and hashtag that, and ‘follow this’ and ‘follow that,’ but in the process of collecting data, we discovered 6% of our external population and about 9% of our internal population was going to Twitter for anything,” he said. “So we were spending a significant amount of time and energy on a tool that was reaching a very small audience.”
Levy said after the survey closed on Oct. 25 and the results were compiled, he noticed a few key things.
“One was, our community loves North County,” he said of the 7.18 rating on a scale of 10. “When we say ‘It’s a great day to be a Raider,’ it means something. There’s always room to grow, but we have many people who love the district.”
Indeed, on a scale of 1-10 with 10 indicating “extremely proud,” 51% of respondents chose scores of 8-10, while 38% chose scores 5-7 and the remaining 46 respondents — 10% of those taking the survey — chose scores of 1-4.
Levy said another big takeaway had to do with local media — newspaper and radio — and social media, building an authentic presence that told the “North County story.”
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“We want to make the most of social media tools people are using. Facebook is a big one, but until the survey, we didn’t consider Instagram,” he said. “People are saying, ‘hey, if you want to tell a story, tell it through pictures.’ That’s a great tool we can use.”
Facebook gets the lion’s share, or 83% of social media interaction from the 406 respondents – most of whom were district employees or parents of students — while Instagram came in second at 40%. Twitter was listed as an active platform for only 14% of respondents, who could chose more than one platform for social media engagement.
The district’s website was also a key topic. Levy said he had wondered, “Is it meeting our needs? Is the information accessible within three clicks?”
“We have a good website and our guys work very hard on it. There are different tools that can be used, and the great thing is, technology is constantly evolving,” he said. “So a great tool we used before, we might be able to replace with a free tool that Google offers to make it even better. When you’re five or six clicks in, it’s easier to say, ‘forget it, I’ll just call,’ or ‘forget it, I’m not going to look for it.’”
Of the nine choices presented in the survey — and respondents could choose more than one communication method —48% chose the district website as the means by which people sought information. The website was followed by district social media accounts (42%), internal communication such as meetings (29%), students’ teachers (20%) and the Daily Journal (15%). The next four were “other” (13%), on-campus postings and bulletin boards (9%), school board meetings (8%) and radio (3%).
Levy said more possibilities are on deck, such as creating an app.
“There are some very simple apps that you can build, so we have some great people who are technology-driven and they’ve already got a template built,” he said. “When you tap into people’s passions and strengths and allow them to run with it, they’re going to know and do so much more than I will about every single piece of this. So I really rely on their expertise with this and I want to let them succeed with it.”
Levy said in his leadership role, he tries to stress empowerment among employees.
“Sure, I could build an app, but it might be awful. But if we have a teacher who’s chomping at the bit to make one, saying ‘let me,’ then why not? How do you build next-generation leaders? You empower them to do things,” he said. “And here’s the thing: we may fail! We may be like, ‘Guess what, app one didn’t work.’ That’s why we try it out on a small scale first, we go back and figure out what went right, what went wrong, and we try again.
“That’s where, as a district, if you look at the last 12 or 24 months, we have to empower people. And it can’t be fake, it has to be genuine, authentic. So we’ve tried very hard — we work in a business of human emotion. If we feel good, we grow. If we don’t feel good, we don’t grow.”