The pressure is on.
As competition for students heats up, K-12 school leaders are rethinking how they engage their communities — and testing new strategies to keep families enrolled.
The numbers don’t lie. Charter school enrollment has increased by 62 percent since 2015, and 18 states forecast enrollment declines in the next decade.
Challenged by a new superintendent to better understand community needs and curb declining enrollments, administrators at Louisiana’s Caddo Parish Public Schools recently launched Let’s Talk!, a customer service and community engagement platform from K12 Insight. Administrators say the technology, which is accessible through a tab on the district website, is a safe, easy way for parents, students, staff, and others to connect with district leaders on critical school issues.
“Let’s Talk! allows us to answer our community in real-time and listen to them in a powerful way,” says Mary Nash-Wood, the district’s director of communications and strategic initiatives. Nash-Wood says the district had a sort of “ivory tower” mentality in how it was communicating with parents and community members, and administrators wanted to change that.
That meant not just pushing information out to its community, but engaging in authentic, “two-way” conversations.
Unlike traditional email, feedback received through Let’s Talk! enters a universal inbox where it is instantly routed to the right person or team of people for a more timely and accurate response. Because every message funnels through the same inbox, employees can easily share comments and collaborate on responses.
On the backend, district leaders get a dashboard featuring key metrics, such as number of inquiries received, average response times, recurring themes, and an average customer feedback score. Nash-Wood says her team uses the technology to create more accountability for community engagement and to improve the level of customer service and support the district ultimately provides.
“We needed to make sure that, as a district, we have the same standard of holding ourselves accountable and having a true measurement to be able to say what we are doing well and what we need to be doing more of,” Nash-Wood says. “With Let’s Talk!, that ownership and transparency is finally here.”
Not everyone was on board with the idea at first. Some long-serving employees questioned whether adding yet another technology solution would simply create more work for the staff.
“They thought this was just another ask, or that they already knew what the community needed,” Nash-Wood explains. “But from the soft launch on the first day of school to where we are now, there has been such incredible buy-in. The employees who once questioned whether or not Let’s Talk! was needed are now actively promoting it on social media.”
Employees and departments even use the solution to improve job performance. Nash-Wood says the communications department uses the solution to spot potential fires before they hit the 5 o’clock news, while the student services office uses the solution to help students anonymously report safety concerns, such as bullying and other time-sensitive issues. “We’ve made true believers out of this process,” she says.
While still early in the game, the district’s commitment to authentic community engagement and excellent customer service is already paying dividends.
“Parents have fully embraced Let’s Talk! and reach out consistently,” says Nash-Wood. “They love how quickly they receive a response and the professionalism of it, and they’re telling their friends. It’s become a grocery store conversation in the aisle to say, ‘Hey, you have that issue. Why don’t you use Let’s Talk! on the district’s website? You’ll get an answer in a couple of hours.’”
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