South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Lindbergh to seek strategic-planning consultant for public engagement

School board doesn’t ‘anoint someone,’ then award contract, president says

The Lindbergh Board of Education unanimously agreed last week to issue a request for proposals for a strategic-planning consultant that would help direct the district in its ongoing community-engagement process.

At the school board’s March 13 meeting, Director of Community Relations Mary Meyer detailed a number of goals that she would like the district to accomplish for next year through public engagement.

The school district’s goals for next year include overseeing community relations, crisis communication and focusing on community engagement and strategic planning. That focus involves working with a consultant, developing a written plan, implementing the plan and assuring schools implement the plan.

Meyer initially recommended Ken DeSieghardt of DeSieghardt Communication as a strategic-planning consultant. His company was hired by the district last year to conduct a telephone survey that would eventually lead to the voter-approved Proposition R — a $32 million no-tax-increase bond issue that was passed in November. The cost of that survey and a corresponding communications audit came at a cost not to exceed $21,800.

But school-board members last week were concerned about the appearance of again hiring DeSieghardt without issuing a request for proposals, or RFP, for the same service.

“While I appreciate the work that Ken has done, I think the way we’ve always done business in the district is we don’t anoint someone and just go out and award a contract to them,” board President Mark Rudoff said.

Board Secretary Vic Lenz shared those concerns and said the district should open the strategic-planning consultant position to all firms that would be interested.

“I think we’d be very shortsighted if we went to one individual and said: ‘You’re going to do it,'” Lenz said. “I think we definitely need to get ideas just like we did when we did bond-levy consultants and all those other things. We got ideas from a number of people. I’d like to hear them. And then we can pick one.”

As a result of the board’s desire to seek rather than appoint a strategic-planning consultant, the Board of Education unanimously agreed to have the district’s community-engagement committee formulate a request for proposals for those consulting services.

That RFP is scheduled to be presented to the Board of Education for approval at its April 10 meeting. District officials then hope that the school board in May will award a contract to a strategic-planning consultant that has been recommended by the community-engagement committee.

Once a strategic-planning consultant is in place, Rudoff said the district then could fully begin its public engagement and begin to incorporate such goals as branding and better communication within the community.

“I think that the branding as part of the communication and strategic plan and what we’re going to do, I think that has to come as part of our strategic communications and our consultant — whoever that is or may be,” Rudoff said. “And I think, from my perspective, I would be more comfortable and I think the board, in retrospect, would be more comfortable if we get the consultant designated first, allow them to provide the input on how we’re going to proceed with what the branding and the logo and the communication strategies are going to be and how we roll that into defining our identity.”

The strategic plan would be a “comprehensive communication and community-engagement plan” that would provide a “foundation for improving communication ” and “increasing partnerships and collaboration,” according to the school district’s community-relations plan.

Meyer said it is her hope to further involve parents, senior citizens, local businesses, civic and government groups, staff groups and numerous residents in the district’s plans for the future.

“It’s planning for our immediate and long-range needs and developing a plan to reach and engage more people in our community,” Meyer said. “What this really does is it gives us an opportunity to celebrate and communicate Lindbergh. Part of it will be through branding of who we are and what we’re all about. And then the other important part is new and better relationships with our community groups, new ways of communicating and creating Lindbergh ambassadors.”

The district’s goals for hiring a strategic-planning consultant include developing a written plan for communications and developing a written plan for community engagement.

Lindbergh’s community-engagement program also seeks an overhaul of the district’s Community Link newsletter and an annual report on community engagement.

Meyer said she also hopes to accomplish branding of the district through public engagement. Besides existing forms of branding like theme and celebration banners, staff logo wear and district theme pins, Meyer is recommending signage on buildings, development of a new logo, updating the look of newsletters and branding messages.

As a way to create new district ambassadors, officials propose targeting communication with district voters, communicating with residents who have a vested interest in the community, surveying the group to determine their informational wants and needs and then sending them specific information in the form of post cards, letters, short newsletters and e-mail messages.

The school district’s last venture into gauging community input came in April 2006, when DeSieghardt Strategic Communications and its data-collection partner, Market Research Associates, conducted a telephone survey of 500 Lindbergh School District residents.

That survey found that 84 percent of those 500 people surveyed would support a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue. The district then used that show of support from the survey and placed Prop R on the November ballot. The measure was approved by 69.57 percent of voters.

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