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A national survey of 500 educational leaders suggests that nearly all aspire to build trust with their stakeholders, but too few are confident in their school districts’ ability to deliver on that goal. 

The 2019 State of K-12 Customer Experience survey was conducted by K12 Insight, an educational communications and research firm, with support from the National School Public Relations Association and the National School Boards Association. The survey found that 90 percent of district and school leaders say that building community trust is critical to the mission of their organizations, but only 52 percent believe their districts could effectively accomplish it. 

Similarly, engaging parents and community members (81 percent), communication with internal stakeholders (80 percent) and effective crisis communications (80 percent) were cited among the most important communications objectives. Only a bare majority of school leaders felt their districts could do these things effectively.

In Pennsylvania, nearly two-thirds of voters are satisfied with their local public schools, according to a 2019 poll commissioned by the Pennsylvania State Education Association. WalletHub also named Pennsylvania the third-best state for teachers in 2019, based on a combination of financial elements and working conditions. Despite an overall favorable view of schools by the electorate and educators in Pennsylvania and other states, there is lessened support among stakeholders who are not public school parents. 

Educational leaders in Pennsylvania should aim to deepen trust and build stronger relationships with all community stakeholders — not just parents and families of school-aged children. Over time, stronger bonds overall can lead to increased awareness about schools’ relationship to individual communities, along with heightened voter support for local and state school funding. 

In addition, there are opportunities to better communicate the good news coming out of our schools while taking preventive steps to prevent crises or negative stories from eroding confidence and support.

The Donovan Group is a ready partner, eager to assist Pennsylvania school district leaders in addressing communications priorities and helping build trust with communities, parents, educators and staff. We are available to serve as your dedicated communications team and to provide specialized guidance, content and support to help you tell your district’s story.

Liam Goldrick is an associate with the Donovan Group. Based in the firm’s Philadelphia office, he assists school and district leaders throughout Pennsylvania and Delaware.