Located north of Daytona Beach, Flagler Schools — the largest employer in Flagler County — has experienced rapid growth for more than 20 years. About a decade ago, our district went through a rezoning process to meet the needs of our growing community.
Fast forward to 2020, Flagler Schools’ growth has skyrocketed — with 13,000 students and 2,500 teachers and staff — and some of our schools have reached full capacity once again.
As we entered the 2021-2022 school year, my team and I knew rezoning was inevitable in 2022-2023. Collectively, we realized this project would require open, consistent communication between the district and our community for it to be a success.
Let’s Talk! was a natural fit because we were already using it to collect feedback and answer questions from our community related to student services, teaching and learning, technology and information systems, transportation, HR, the school board, school safety and much more.
Working with the K12 Insight team, we launched our Let’s Talk! rezoning page in August. Our goal was to offer a place where our families can ask questions and provide feedback 24/7 about the rezoning process — especially during and after our community listening sessions.
Listening to our community
Community meetings are an important part of our rezoning project because they help gauge where everyone stands. However, not everyone is comfortable speaking publicly in front of their neighbors. Let’s Talk! provides our stakeholders the opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns that may be tough to address in the public setting — all while collecting valuable data.
For example, based on our frequent meetings and feedback from Let’s Talk!, we found stakeholders are more concerned about the rezoning process as it pertains to the elementary level than the middle and high schools. The ability to review the results shows us what to focus on to make the most of our time in these community gatherings.
In-person communities can easily become driven by a small number of voices and some people may not want to share a contrary point of view if the debate is heating up. During our in-person community meetings, we offer stakeholders a QR code linking to Let’s Talk! so they can ask questions and share commentary without having to stand up in public.
Through Let’s Talk!, we’ve received dialogues from people who said they weren’t comfortable speaking in person and wanted to share that they felt the district was taking the right approach. This helps the superintendent, administration, and cabinet have a more diverse perspective beyond the most vocal attendees in a meeting. Let’s Talk! gives all of our stakeholders a voice in this process.
At Flagler Schools, implementing Let’s Talk! brings a sense of relief to community members because they are confident the district is receiving their feedback. Our families are the most important aspect of this rezoning process and listening to our community is an important way to build trust.
Let’s Talk! makes it simple for people to respond with their honest opinions, questions, and concerns — even anonymously.
The data from the Let’s Talk! dashboard allows us to understand our stakeholders’ emotions, feelings, interest areas, and more. Plus, we can present this data at school meetings and through other outlets — allowing us to be as transparent as possible. This has resulted in our community feeling confident about the direction of our school district.
We know today’s education leaders face many challenges and open communications is the path to building trust. Using Let’s Talk! has made it easier for our district to navigate a touchy topic such as rezoning while demonstrating to our stakeholders that we’re open to their feedback and have their best interests in mind.
Preparing for the future
The Flagler School board recently met to discuss our strategic, five-year plan. Within it, we examined future topics where we’ll need community input.
Let’s Talk! helps our administration analyze incoming data and identify key areas needing attention or additional resources. The platform serves as a thermometer for hot issues — helping Flagler Schools be better prepared to answer common questions and aiding us in allaying fears before they become a crisis. From rezoning to transportation issues to COVID-19 protocols, Let’s Talk! is a vital tool in supporting our school district’s communication and creating a culture of customer service.