As leaders, we are always striving to improve processes and relationships to drive greater results. At Oconomowoc Area School District (OASD) in Wisconsin, leaders are doing just that through their commitment to listening to parents’ input about what provides a supportive educational environment for their children.
The district’s vision statement is, “to become an unrivaled learning community, seeking wisdom, honoring the past, and shaping the future.” Realizing this vision could not be achieved without productively engaging external stakeholders to inform improvement, the district made a commitment to “building strong parent and community partnerships” in 2014. Over the past three years, Studer Education has administered a Parent Satisfaction Survey to assess parents’ perceptions of this “partnership.” While Superintendent Dr. Roger Rindo has noted some improvement in overall parent satisfaction, he and his leadership team were not satisfied with the results or the participation rate in the first few years of this feedback cycle. They dedicated effort and created action plans to improve perception and participation. In 2014, OASD scored an overall mean of 3.94 on a 5-point scale, with 640 responses. This year they scored a 4.00, with 1,445 responses, more than doubling their initial response rate from 2014.
Dr. Rindo is continuing to accelerate progress in this area. He and his leaders remain strong believers that parents and families are key stakeholders in the district’s definition of community. Here are the action steps they’ve taken to increase improvement:
- Shifted the survey window to a quieter time of the school year, which doubled parent participation in 2017. This means that more parents’ feedback is included in the improvement cycle.
- Reviewed their own and the district results for the Parent Satisfaction Survey. They asked themselves: What can WE (they use the term “8 Schools Strong”) do to improve parent satisfaction next year?
- Brainstormed new ideas and developed a list of potential actions for school leaders, school employees, district department leaders, and the Superintendent.
- This spring, the Superintendent added a question to his regular quarterly interviews he uses to guide one-on-one conversations with leaders, “What can I do to help you drive better parent satisfaction?”
From 2017-2018, the district will jointly— across all eight schools— focus a continuous improvement cycle on parent satisfaction. The district plans to begin a process called Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) to determine gaps in parent satisfaction, use data to implement a plan, analyze results, and make adjustments. In Dr. Rindo’s words:
“We had some really good conversations about parent communication and feedback at the admin team meeting and have identified a group of leaders who will assist in building a Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle around the ideas generated this month once school is over.”
This focused attention, facilitated by a central office communications leader, shows that parent satisfaction is an even higher priority in OASD than ever before. Clear actions, validation of implementation, and ongoing monitoring of the parent experience will be executed with high fidelity this year to make a difference in this learning community.