The Virginia Association of School Superintendents has partnered with the Donovan Group to offer around-the-clock urgent and crisis communication services to public schools and districts throughout Virginia.
Through the service, district and school leaders gain access to school communication experts to help them quickly respond to difficult situations that may affect their schools, students, staff and families throughout the year.
“A crisis situation can arise at any moment in a school or district, requiring the need for quick and effective communication with parents, staff, students, community members and other stakeholders,” said Ben Kiser, Executive Director of VASS. “This is more true than ever as we continue to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. By working with the Donovan Group to deliver this service, we are giving school district leaders a much-needed resource to help them communicate when time is of the essence.”
The Donovan Group is a communication, public relations and marketing firm that focuses exclusively on public K-12 education. Its team consists of education communication experts who have worked on thousands of crisis situations large and small, including those that impact a small group of people and those affecting entire school district communities.
The urgent and crisis communication service includes live counsel over the phone, with the Donovan Group team helping school leaders gather the facts, determine who they need to reach first and identify the best communication channels. The firm also provides custom talking points, parent letters, news releases, social media posts and other written content, working with school leaders to revise or fine-tune this content as needed.
“We are incredibly excited to partner with VASS to provide these urgent and crisis communication services available to public schools and districts in Virginia,” said Joe Donovan, Founding Partner of the Donovan Group. “In doing so, we are building on our experience delivering these services in several other states. We look forward to providing this resource to Virginia’s superintendents and educational leaders as we move forward.”
For more information on the service, visit https://www.vassonline.org.
In the 15 or so years of the Donovan Group, there is only one regret that I have: naming it after myself. I have always focussed on the “group” part of the name because it is the collective group of people who comprise our firm—dedicating their considerable knowledge, skills and their goodness as people—who are responsible for the success of our clients and our firm.
As we approach our 16th year in business, I am grateful to share some updates.
Earlier this year, we opened offices in Florida, Minnesota and, after launching a partnership with the California School Boards Association, California. At the same time, we continue to grow our national services. We now serve districts in every corner of the United States and many school districts in between.
Meet Holly Henderson
We also made some really great hires. Holly Henderson joined us earlier this year as a Communication Strategist. She has been deeply involved in education as the marketing and communication specialist for the School District of Baraboo. Holly received the 2019 Wisconsin School Public Relations Association Lighthouse Award, along with 10 Awards of Excellence and four Awards of Merit from WSPRA.
Meet Dr. Lori Mueller
On July 1, we were thrilled to welcome Dr. Lori Mueller to our firm as a Senior Associate. Lori is a greatly respected educational leader and superintendent who has been nationally recognized for her work in school communication.
While superintendent in the School District of Baraboo in central Wisconsin, Lori led significant continuous school improvement through district strategic planning processes. She also led efforts to engage community members in successfully passing the two largest capital referendums in her district’s history. Lori will serve districts nationally while leading the Donovan Group’s efforts in Florida.
Meet Perry Hibner
We are pleased to also welcome Perry Hibner to our firm as the leader of Donovan Group Intelligence, which is described below. Until very recently, Perry served as the director of communications for the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District. There, he oversaw communication for both the district and its foundation, taking the lead on fundraising strategies, events, planned giving, newsletters, website management, communication planning and crisis communications.
Introducing Donovan Group Intelligence
Also on July 1, we formally announced the opening of Donovan Group Intelligence, a survey research firm. Since the beginning, Donovan Group has done a ton of survey research. As our footprint has grown, so too has the number of requests for us to provide additional (non-communications focused) research services to district clients, including online surveys for culture and climate issues, COVID-19, referendum efforts and quick, “dip-stick” style surveys. We also provide polling, focus groups and analysis.
While DG Intelligence is positioned as something of a spinoff, it falls squarely under the Donovan Group umbrella and includes services that we have been providing for years. These services are made better by new methodologies and best-in-the-field tech.
In addition to providing top-notch survey research services to schools, districts and educational organizations across the country, the outstanding professionals who comprise our team will be made better by benefitting from the new data that will be generated through this service.
Before I sign off, I would like to return to the “group” part of our name. Just as our growth over years could not be made possible without the outstanding people who I get to work with every day, it could not have been possible without the amazing support we have received from the various friends we have worked with over the years, people with whom we have aligned over our mutual interests in advancing public education and ensuring that when it comes to meeting the needs of all students in our schools, we truly mean all.
Thank you for your support.
Joe Donovan is founding partner of the Donovan Group.
The Donovan Group, a national leader in education-focused communications and community engagement, is expanding its survey, polling, focus group and data analysis services through the launch of Donovan Group Intelligence.
By integrating proven research methods and emerging best practices, technology and experience, Donovan Group Intelligence empowers schools and districts to collect, store, examine and manage data from students, staff, parents, non-parent community members and others.
As part of this effort, the firm has added Perry Hibner, an experienced school communications professional and former journalist, to serve as lead survey strategist in Illinois and Wisconsin. In this role, Hibner will help expand Donovan Group Intelligence.
“While we have provided surveys, focus groups and data analysis to our clients for many years, we are now thrilled to welcome Perry Hibner to our team as we expand this work through Donovan Group Intelligence,” said Joe Donovan, president of the Donovan Group. “Now more than ever, it is critical for schools and districts to leverage data to engage stakeholders in more meaningful ways. We are excited to move forward with these efforts in both Illinois and Wisconsin.”
Prior to joining the Donovan Group, Hibner served as the director of communications for a decade for the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District. He also served for six years as the executive director of the MCPASD Education Foundation. In those roles, he oversaw communication for both the district and its foundation, taking the lead on fundraising strategies, events, planned giving, newsletters, website management, communication planning and crisis communications.
Hibner has also served as a high school social studies teacher and substitute teacher. He worked for the Wisconsin State Journal for nearly 25 years, including the last 15 as assistant sports editor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a history minor and teaching certification from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Donovan Group Intelligence offers online surveys on a variety of topics, including virtual learning, climate and culture and referendum and bond efforts, along with quick, dipstick-style surveys. The firm’s research methodologies stress engaging the entire school district community and using unique methods for disaggregating data to separate the signal from the noise.
The firm also provides polling, focus groups and analysis, with methodologically appropriate data disaggregation, reports and presentations and password-protected data dashboards that make data come alive and become actionable.
Founded in 2004, the Donovan Group delivers a variety of communications and marketing services to public schools and districts nationwide. Over the years, its work has involved some of the most critical and urgent issues facing schools, districts and educational organizations. The firm’s clients range from large urban schools and districts to small, one-school rural districts.
To learn more about Donovan Group Intelligence, visit https://www.dgintelligence.com.
Dr. Lori M. Mueller, an experienced educational leader and superintendent who has been nationally recognized for her work in school communication, has joined the Donovan Group as the firm’s lead associate in Florida.
For the past six years, Dr. Mueller has served as district administrator of the School District of Baraboo in central Wisconsin. In that time, she led significant continuous school improvement through district strategic planning processes. She also led efforts to engage community members in successfully passing the two largest capital referendums in her district’s history, totaling $63.65 million.
In 2018, Dr. Mueller was widely praised for her handling of a situation in her school district that had gained an enormous amount of national news media and social media attention. In the months after that incident, she was invited to speak about school crisis communication at several conferences and was featured in a February 2020 article in School Administrator magazine.
Dr. Mueller has announced that she is stepping down from her role at the School District of Baraboo and is moving with her husband to Florida to be closer to family.
“Those closest to me know that my extended family is in Florida and that I call that area of the country my home,” Dr. Mueller said. “With our son graduating in May from Baraboo High School, we have decided it is time to be closer to loved ones and make this move for our family.”
Under her leadership in Baraboo, district educators accomplished top accolades due to collective efficacy, instructional coaching and professional development efforts. Students benefited by gaining access to rich opportunities that prepared them for college and the workforce, such as increased advanced placement coursework, dual-enrollment classes and business-education partnerships.
In addition to her experience as a superintendent, Dr. Mueller has served as a teacher and a director of curriculum and instruction. She has presented at regional, state and national conferences on topics related to grading for communicating student learning, developing assessment literacy, gifted and talented services, implementing a Response to Intervention framework, continuous school improvement, strategic planning, crisis response and engaging the community in advance of a facilities referendum.
Dr. Mueller holds an Ed.D. from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. She also received a master’s degree in Educational Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a bachelor’s degree in French and Health Education from UW-Whitewater.
“We are incredibly excited to welcome Dr. Mueller to our team as we ramp up our school communication services in Florida,” said Joe Donovan, president of the Donovan Group. “Over the course of her career, Dr. Mueller has distinguished herself as an incredible educator, administrator and leader, not to mention a great communicator. Her experience and skill in the areas of educational administration, communication and community engagement will prove to be extremely valuable to school and district leaders throughout Florida.”
Founded in 2004, the Donovan Group is a national leader in education-focused communications and community engagement. Over the years, its work has involved some of the most critical and urgent issues facing schools, districts and educational organizations. The firm’s clients range from large urban schools and districts to small, one-school rural districts.
In addition to Florida, the firm has offices in Wisconsin, California, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. The Donovan Group’s services include communication planning, ongoing communication support, surveys, video production, content creation, graphic design, communication audits and bond and referendum assistance.
By Liam Goldrick, Associate
I sincerely believe that public schools are among the most important institutions in our nation. They are the center of our communities. They represent a caring and safe place for our children to learn and grow. They are our largest employers, a workplace of millions of teachers, school principals and district leaders.
Schools are at the forefront of preparing future citizens for higher learning, the workforce and as participants in our democracy.
That’s why I am so incredibly excited that my professional career has taken me to the Donovan Group, an award-winning education communications firm. After nearly 20 years in educational policy and communications, much of it nationally, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to make a difference locally and support the needs of schools and districts in Delaware and Pennsylvania.
As I begin my work with the Donovan Group, I do so with a deep commitment to the firm’s mission and with respect and trust for my colleagues and the work they do every day. I’ve known Joe Donovan, the firm’s president, for more than 15 years. We first met in Wisconsin in 2004, when he was the communications director for the state Department of Public Instruction and I was the education advisor to the state’s governor. I have watched from afar as Joe has built the Donovan Group from the ground up, bringing on talented professionals to help the firm grow.
The Donovan Group focuses exclusively on public education, offering services that help schools and districts reach their communication and stakeholder engagement goals. The firm’s clients include large, urban districts and small, one-building rural schools.
Earlier this year, the firm received the Gold Medallion Award from the National School Public Relations Association, the nation’s top honor for school district communications. Joe Donovan also received the Award of Special Recognition for Service to Wisconsin from the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.
Too often, the dialogue about public education seems to focus on what is not working. It’s true that there remain many challenges for school leaders when it comes to ensuring all students receive a quality education. While that is a critical conversation—especially when addressing inequities within classrooms, schools and the educational system as a whole—it can obscure all the great work taking place in public schools each and every day.
School and district leaders must be able to engage their stakeholders and share these stories. Through great communication, they can speak to what is working well in their schools and recognize the incredible efforts of educators, school service staff, students, parents and community members to build supportive teaching and learning cultures in schools and strengthen the learning of all children.
The power of these examples—and the stories school leaders, teachers and students can collectively tell—must be heard more widely to build and sustain public support for schools and to ensure our education systems receive the funding they need. Today, public schools must fight for the resources that research indicates make a critical difference for student achievement.
With that in mind, I look forward to helping school district leaders engage their stakeholders around the critical work they are doing and the achievements of their students and staff. With the Donovan Group, I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work—on behalf of students, families, educators and public schools. Let’s celebrate our successes together!
The Donovan Group has received a Gold Medallion from the National School Public Relations Association as part of the team that helped the Howard-Suamico School District communicate effectively around its recent referendum effort.
The award, which is the top public relations honor the organization gives out, recognizes Howard-Suamico’s communication surrounding its successful April 2018 referendum. The Donovan Group’s president, Joe Donovan, received the award at a banquet in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, July 17.
We were very pleased and honored to receive this award. We truly appreciate the invitation from our client, the Howard-Suamico School District, including Superintendent Damian LaCroix and Director of Communications Brian Nicol.
NSPRA’s Gold Medallion recognizes excellence in school public relations and communication, including the programs of school districts, postsecondary institutions, state and national education groups and communication agencies.
In April 2018, a referendum presented to voters in the Howard-Suamico School District passed by 17 percentage points. That was just a year after a previous referendum proposal had been defeated in the community.
The district engaged the Donovan Group to plan and execute a strategy for the 2018 referendum, including two community surveys and a staff survey. Information gathered from these surveys informed the district’s approach to communication, messaging, ballot language and the board’s development of the new referendum question.
The strategy also included banners and graphics, mailers, a referendum website, media engagement, videos, newsletters and post-referendum communications.
We are so grateful for this award and for the opportunity to work on this effort with the team at the Howard-Suamico School District. To learn more about the award, please visit https://www.nspra.org/sites/default/files/award-submissions/gold-medallion-19_wi-howard-suamico-school-district.pdf.