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DPS 109 Communications Systems Review

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL AUDIT REPORT (there is another link at the bottom of this summary as well)


At its core, the communications department cannot be successful if we don’t employ methods and practices that effectively reach and impact our constituents. 

The DPS 109 Communications Department has three main objectives:

  1. Be the eyes inside the classroom

  2. Provide connections and convenience for our stakeholders

  3. Provide opportunities for meaningful collaboration and feedback

In order to best achieve these objectives and serve our stakeholders, we sought an independent audit of our district’s communications systems and practices by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA). This is all done with the intent to make our robust communications program even stronger and to serve our community more effectively.

NSPRA completed a thorough audit in three parts:

  • Reviewing existing communications materials including published information, website content, and social media activity

  • Distributing surveys to all 109 stakeholders in April 2023  - in total, 597 surveys were completed

  • Holding focus groups representing various cross sections of our district, including:

    1. Elementary parents

    2. Middle school parents

    3. Business/community leaders

    4. Elementary teachers and support staff

    5. Middle school teachers and support staff

    6. Assistant principals

    7. Principals

    8. District office staff

    9. Executive Leadership Team

    10. Board of Education

Simplifying the demographics into three groups, there are some meaningful takeaways to consider:


  • The principal weekly newsletter is the most consumed piece of information in our district - 96% of parents surveyed say they read it

  • There is a yearning to know what is going on inside the classroom - 51% of parents surveyed say they want more information from teachers, but the other 49% think the frequency is ok

  • Texting is a tool that the district should use more frequently, as a large percentage selected that as a preferred communication method.

  • DPS 109 benefits from a supportive and well-organized parent community
    and PTO that can be utilized to distribute important information.


  • DPS 109 employees take pride in the district and feel a sense of ownership. 

  • About 4 in 10 staff members feel only slightly or moderately informed about how to represent our district as an ambassador or deliver effective customer service.

  • An increase of  careful and consistent efforts is needed to involve employees in the decisions that impact their work.

  • Teachers and other frontline employees are not well-informed about major plans, projects and initiatives. 

  • If we ask for input, we need to show staff how that factors into a decision or process.


  • There is a huge sense of pride in and support for our local schools.

  • The top reported source of information for those in the community is hearing what others tell them. As expected, they are not major consumers of our traditional communication tactics.

  • Many report feeling a sense of disconnect from the schools once their children aged out of the system.


  • Our website is not a destination for information - only 59% of parents say they look at it on a monthly basis.

  • There is an opportunity amongst all stakeholders to better inform them about district finances and the master facility planning process

Accompanying these takeaways, the auditor provided 7 main recommendations to improve our communication program and guide our work in the coming years:

  1. Develop a strategic communication plan that includes measurable objectives focused on moving the district toward achieving its goals

  2. Review the number of parent communication
    tools in use at the district and school levels and consider a more streamlined approach

  3. Build greater awareness, understanding and support for the master facility process

  4. Create networks of key communicators and digital ambassadors

  5. Develop and implement strategies to keep staff members informed and engaged

  6. Review the district’s Emergency and Crisis Response Plan with an emphasis on consistent language and parent notification protocols

  7. Update or redesign the district website

The communications department accepts these seven recommendations, and has begun work on them. So when will this all be done? Our NSPRA auditors and others knowledgeable in this process advise those laying out a timeline to exercise caution in trying to not do too much too quickly. After careful consideration, we have developed the three-year plan laid out below.


The order in which these goals are tackled and completed may be subject to change as we move through the next few years. The intention here is to improve in all seven facets as soon as possible, but doing so with thought, consideration, and collaboration where possible.

We invite you to review the audit in full here, along with the data from the survey sent out to the larger community. This will be posted to the DPS 109 website in the coming days and publicized in the next 109 News on October 3rd. With benchmarks now established, it’s our intention to do a yearly survey of families, staff, and the community so that we can strive to keep growing in how we serve this community. We are proud of the work we get to do every day, telling the stories of and working with the amazing students and community of Deerfield Public Schools District 109. 


Eric Steckling
Director of Communications, DPS 109

Katerina Schroeder
Communications Specialist, DPS 109