Building Community, Trust and Transparency with a State of the District Event

By Lesley Rogers, SVP of Education and Kahliah Laney, Education Communications Director at Strategies 360

We’re at the National School Public Relations Association’s yearly seminar this week, connecting with school communications pros and superintendents from around the country in Washington, D.C. So far, it’s been a great opportunity to learn from our colleagues about some of the latest trends in school PR, hear case studies and tips about how school districts are telling the story of their successes (and even challenges) to all audiences.

At Strategies 360, we get to work with districts across the Pacific Northwest (and beyond – hi Elmhurst!) to help partner and find solutions to improve communications. We love that our work takes us from small rural districts that we reach by ferry, to urban districts in our own backyard, to growing suburban districts. No matter what the size of the district, the one issue we often hear is the need to build trust and transparency with families, staff and the larger community.

On Monday, we were honored to present a skill session on how to plan a State of the District event that can help build those relationships, increase trust and transparency and help inform the community about your current goals or upcoming plans. Whether the topic centers around a new strategic plan, updates to the plan, a school funding measure, or just to help inform how school budgets work, a State of the District event can work for every district.

So, in case you couldn’t join us in D.C., here are just a few of the tips we talked about.

  1. Be strategic. Spend time thinking about the goal of the event, the tone and the time of year. Do you have an annual report to tie the event to? An update on your strategic plan? Maybe an upcoming election? Think about what month makes the most sense. And be sure to give yourself time to plan it.
  2. Invite the right audience. If you invite everyone, you invite no one. We’re a fan of making an invite list and sending it out personally. Pick community leaders and people who might not typically spend time in your schools. Make the event special. And to spread the messages further, you can broadcast the event via Facebook Live.
  3. Identify your speakers. We love superintendents and want to hear from you. But students, teachers and community partners are great on stage too. Think about who can convey the messages for you.
  4. What’s the buzz? Think about what you want attendees to walk away thinking about your district. If they go back to the office, what do you want them to tell a co-worker about what they just heard?
  5. Stay focused. Don’t try to make your event too many things. Too often, once people hear you’re doing a big event, they also want to recognize a community member, or turn it into an “ask” for school funding support. Keep your focus on your initial strategy, and don’t lose control of that.

Want to start planning your event now? You can download our planning worksheet and start filling in the details to host a State of the District event this upcoming school year. Need help? We’re always here to talk through strategy at