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The Sedona-Oak Creek Governing Board took the first step toward creating a communications plan that would “improve community relationships, easily recognize and address strengths and weaknesses, and improve the student experience.”

Board Vice President Heather Hermen presented a first draft of the plan at a meeting Monday, March 13.

The plan identifies the school district’s audience as four groups of constituents: Community, parents, staff and students. It calls for clear consistent messages tailored to each group.
For example, it seeks to communicate to the community such issues as budget challenges, declining enrollment and ways to get involved.

For students and parents, the messages would include information on programs such as International Baccalaureate, STEAM, career and technical education and advanced placement/dual enrollment.

For staff, it would focus on creative thinking, support from the board and community and being “part of the solution.”

The messaging would be reviewed regularly with an eye toward questions such as:

  • What are community members, parents, staff and students asking the most?
  • What misconceptions need to be clear up?
  • What information needs to be shared the most?
  • Why should parents and students choose our district?

The channels through which the communications would be presented include the district website — which is nearing completion of a major overhaul —  school websites, social media, text message alerts, email notifications, newspaper and radio, and a district monthly newsletter.

Also planned is video streaming of school board meetings.

Results of the messaging will be measured by new likes or visits to social media pages, clicks and views on the website, publication of press releases and articles, and response from the public through increased email, phone, text or letters to the editor.

The plan also includes a month-by-month breakdown of specific messaging for each outlet, and for both the district and the high school.

The communications plan was met with positive response by board members and district staff members who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

“The plan is in draft form still and has just been sent out to the other board members and administrative team,” Hermen wrote in an email the following day. “The schedule so far only includes a plan for the district and the high school, the elementary and junior high will be added in. I’m hoping to have the final completed for the April 4 board meeting.”

Herman, who owns Front Burner Media, a public relations and marketing agency, volunteered at a Feb. 28 meeting to do the preliminary work on a the plan and bring it back to the rest of the board.

The school board has been criticized in the past for poor communication and failing identify and respond to public concerns, a problem that was brought to the forefront last year when the board was considering closing either West Sedona School or Big Park Community School. Overwhelming public opinion prompted the board to keep both open.

At the Feb. 28 meeting, the board rejected a proposal to create a survey to receive public input. Instead, board members decided to move forward with creating the communication plan.

Tuesday’s meeting was attended by Hermen, board President Randy Hawley and member Karen McClelland. Board members Zach Richardson and Karl Wiseman did not attend.


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