In the seven months since posting the new realignment page built in EngagementHQ, Furr said that not only has he seen immediate online engagement, but he’s also noticed the page gaining popularity with school board members.
“Calling it an ‘Engagement Page’ has kind of clicked for them,” Furr said of the Board. “I’ve noticed it come up frequently in board meetings, where the board will direct questions to that page, and we can answer them all at once. It keeps seven different board members sometimes from answering the same question seven times. So, I think they’ve enjoyed that aspect of it.”
The attention to promptly sharing presentations on the engagement page after they are presented at a board meeting, as well as video streams of the meeting added immediately after the meeting’s conclusion, has helped make the page a valuable resource, according to Furr, which he believes has helped increase community involvement.
“We had an application for a focus group go live on a Tuesday and had 200 applicants overnight,” he said. “That might not seem like a lot. But for a community focus group that’s only going to have 50 members on it, we felt like that was pretty good. I don’t think we would have had that level of participation from a Google form.”
Perhaps more importantly, those visitors to the engagement page are increasingly consistent in their participation. With over 13,500 visitors, the page has seen 157 registrations, and 350 members have either engaged with or contributed to a survey or Q&A on the realignment topic.
Furr said that having a clean and professional-looking standalone page for the engagement project has helped increase the popularity, in part because it is easier to find.
“Being able to say at a board meeting, ‘Go to the Engage site and register’ instead of ‘Go to the district web page, and you’ll find it under x, y, or z’ really helps,” he said. “It’s part of the transparency, putting it there and letting people see it, as long as we keep things in the same place.”
Just as important as the engagement, Furr said that the feedback and data provided through the engagement page is more than he could’ve hoped for from social media alone.
“It is nice for me to be able to see the questions that are answered, and know what’s on people’s minds right away,” he said. “I love the fact that I can log in and get instant data on what’s going on and be able to report that to my board members. I’m able to pull it up on my phone and tell them right away. It’s not something we have to look for.
“I know it’s not rocket science,” he added, “but for a school district to get that kind of engagement data is completely new. We’ve moved into another realm of gauging community engagement.”
Fueled by this new approach to engagement, Furr said that he believes the larger community will become more involved in “the government side of education” because they find their concerns more directly met. Furr even found that the Facebook parent groups have started to reference the engagement page to drive conversations into places that provide a more focused lens on subjects.
“We use social media. It’s not going away,” he said of the ongoing balance. “It is great for disseminating information, calendar events, keeping people in the know and celebrating. But when it comes to having a serious conversation, sometimes serious conversations must take place with facts, in a context where people aren’t frequently interjecting opinion. Being able to do that on the engage page has been nice.”