District releases full Stakeholder Engagement Report
Posted on: May 9, 2023
The Delano Public Schools District recently received the Stakeholder Engagement Report.
The following information is the Executive Report extracted from the full report.
In December 2022, Delano Public Schools (Delano) partnered with CESO Communications (CESO) to facilitate a series of stakeholder engagements around the topic of creating a learning environment that is collaborative, safe and inclusive for all students. In addition to exploring the issues surrounding the “Safe Space for Everyone” signs in some high school classrooms, the engagement conversations probed more deeply into the student climate in Delano Public Schools, in particular at Delano High School (DHS). The goal of the engagements was to provide insight that the district could use as it plans for the future and explores additional practices and activities to enhance a culture of communication and engagement throughout the district. By focusing on the broader issue of belonging, engagements provided a safe space for all voices, especially students.
While details and findings can be found later in this report, in general, insights from students, parents, families, teachers and community members centered around three key themes –Belonging, Engagement, School Climate and Leadership.
● Everyone belongs in Delano - All students, no matter their background (i.e., race, gender identity, religion, ability), have a right to be welcomed into the Delano community, feel like they belong at Delano High School, and feel assured that school is a place where they can be their authentic selves.
● Everyone has a right to feel safe and included - Everyone, especially students, has the right to feel safe and included in Delano – including not just physical safety, but also emotional and mental safety.
● Focus on the needs of each and every student - Delano Public Schools should focus on the individual needs of each student. There is a perception that the school is just focusing on the views of the majority or on certain groups of students.
● Elevate student voices - The district should make it a practice and a priority to include developmentally appropriate ways to engage students in complex discussions and decisions that impact them.
● Engage all stakeholders in the work of the schools - It is important for the district to do more to communicate with and engage stakeholders, especially teachers and parents.
● Ensure all perspectives have the opportunity to be heard – Delano Public Schools has the opportunity to model what honoring and hearing all voices really looks like –teaching students as well as adults in the community that hearing and honoring perspectives different from their own does not mean you have to give up your own values or beliefs.
● Address and correct negative behavior - Stakeholders are looking for more adherence to the student handbooks and addressing of negative behaviors with real consequences, to include some sort of restorative practices into disciplinary actions, noting the importance for students to understand what they did wrong, the harm that was caused, and how to move forward from the mistake.
● Allow students to have challenging discussions - Provide developmentally appropriate spaces and opportunities where students can have conversations about potentially controversial issues – either in class, small groups or one-on-one – so that they can learn how to respectfully discuss such topics and be prepared for the larger world.
● Increase transparency - Many cited the concern about the lack of transparency in district/school communications and decisions. Create a culture of transparency – showing challenges and successes – as well as a culture of stakeholder engagement to rebuild trust and enhance collaboration throughout the community.
● Speak for the whole of the community - No matter which side of the political spectrum, which religion you practice, or what your race/ethnicity or gender is, many participants in the recent engagements cited a concern that their views are not being fairly represented or they are not representative of the Delano community. It is important for the district to engage all voices and focus on building trust and engagement with all sectors of the Delano community.
The primary purpose of the engagements was to provide an opportunity for members of the Delano Public Schools community to share their concerns about and ideas for improving the student experience and overall school climate. The role of CESO Communications was to facilitate these conversations and identify key themes. Yet, it became evident during the analysis that we can and should share some of our thoughts as school communication/engagement experts on ways the district can move forward together. Again, details on these recommendations are available later in this report (Section 4), but in summary, the following concepts of communication and transparency, continued engagement and core values highlight key actions and recommendations that would serve the district well as it plans for its future.
Strategic Communication Plan
We encourage the district to develop a comprehensive communication plan that not only includes key tactics (e.g. newsletters, website, social media), but also considers ways to increase opportunities for engagement and, in turn, understanding of district operations, decisions and instructional philosophies. The plan will allow the district to be more proactive inaccurately telling the Delano Public Schools story, rather than defending against false claims of misinformation about what is and is not being taught in the classroom. Additionally, a strong communications plan will help build trust in district decisions and enhance the district’s brand.
We strongly encourage the district to develop an engagement plan that identifies regular opportunities for members of the district community to come together and discuss issues of interest, with a focus as much on listening to one another as having your own voice heard. Key to this effort is clarity around how information will be collected and used, and how it will inform decisions. By closing the engagement loop with clear participant expectations and building a culture of engagement the district can lessen the misperceptions and rumors that seem to be prevalent in the community.
Well-articulated organizational core values – developed in partnership with the community – help the district express what it stands for, what it believes in, and what is closest to its heart. The development of these values is not about identifying a few terms, but in defining what those terms mean for Delano Public Schools and then highlighting those values in action through effective communication and storytelling. We encourage the district to embark on a community engagement process to develop core values for the district that will serve as the foundation for the district’s mission and vision, supporting actions and decisions that are in the best interest of all current and future Delano students.
It should be noted that many comments at the community conversation, as well as in student and staff focus groups, identified challenges during the 2021-2022 school year at Delano High School that have lessened in 2022-2023. It is clear there remains division about the classroom signs, but the broader issues of belonging, engagement and school climate are where progress is being and will continue to be made. In closing, we recommend that the data, findings and recommendations included in this report be considered as part of a comprehensive strategic planning effort focused on the future of Delano Public Schools. It is evident that the community of Delano is interested in continuing to address what has happened in the past and to work together to create a more welcoming and inclusive school environment where all students are able to thrive.