Engaging Stakeholders in Decision Making Process
Hartford Public Schools (HPS) had an imperative to redesign its schools, which would result in some schools reconfiguring, relocating, consolidating, or closing. With intense financial pressures from the city, state and school board, HPS remained dedicated to creating a district providing equitable access to high-quality teaching and learning, and equal expectations and support for all students. An earlier plan to reorganize the schools failed to earn Board of Education approval due to lack of community input and involvement. Additionally, the community was outraged that the recommendations were made based on a narrow set of criteria and essentially would result in closing multiple schools in North Hartford leaving those neighborhoods without access to close-by neighborhood schools.
Imaj’s goal was to support HPS in bringing together parents, students, faith-based groups, business leaders, teachers and other historically marginalized populations to the decision-making process to create a comprehensive plan to provide high-quality educational experiences and opportunities for every student.
CREATING AN INTEGRATED STRATEGY
To successfully engage each of these groups through two phases – District Reimagining and District Restructuring and to ensure meaningful engagement, open communications and reporting with a broad segment of the community, within and outside the district and schools, Imaj developed and implemented multifaceted strategic engagement and communications plans including:
- developing community partnerships
- creating voice amplification opportunities, input and feedback loops
- organizing, creating and facilitating events
- developing organic strategies throughout the process, adjusted and improved based on input, arising challenges and opportunities
- developing a team of students to plan and implement social media strategies in order to generate and amplify student voice throughout every step of the process
EXECUTING THE PLAN
To ensure meaningful engagement, open communications and reporting within a broad segment of the community, Imaj:
- worked with the team of community partners to define methods for ensuring transparency, meaningful consideration of opinions, and continued involvement of members from the community in the entire process
- created a communications tool kit including materials for partners, community outreach groups, and media relations
- developed two-way lines of communications including an online portal and a dedicated 24/7 phone line.
- secured support of media to reach out to as many, in as many ways, as possible
The engagement plans brought creditability to the process and meaningful change. Through community conversations and faith-based group gatherings, we helped bring forward the voices of parents, based on their own experiences and unique needs:
- Input from the community formed the district’s Guiding Principles and Non-negotiables, which were presented on behalf of the community to the Board of Education as the basis for the districts’ plan.
- The community was then asked to provide further input and to validate that the superintendent’s presentation reflected the community’s vision.
- The inclusive, comprehensive, district-wide plan to restructure HPS schools was presented to the Board and earned unanimous approval and wide community acceptance and support.
- The end result was unanimous approval from the Board of Education for the Hartford Public Schools District Model for Excellence!
Printed materials for Hartford Public Schools to bringing together parents, students, faith-based groups, business leaders, teachers and other historically marginalized populations to the decision-making process.