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  • Success Story

How Hamilton-Wentworth School District (HWDSB) Reimagined Public Engagement


Despite a long history of using online surveys to gather input from the community, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board continued to see a drop in participation. Needing a new way to engage with parents and students, the school district turned to EngagementHQ from Granicus.

“These projects go beyond engagement numbers. They speak to how we connect with those who trust us to educate their children.”
Sheryl Robinson Petrazzini, Director of Education, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board


  • 12,484 visits to the Engage HWDSB site
  • 1,833 individual contributions
  • 476 profile registrations
  • Increased quality of feedback
Must have Granicus Solutions

Survey Says? Not Much

Hamilton-Wentworth School District is big, with nearly 100 schools, more than 50,000 students, and an annual budget of approximately $650 million. With such a large population, the school district wanted to keep all students, parents, and guardians engaged with activities and decisions.

HWDSB relied on online surveys, but after years of use, engagement began to drop.

“Responses were dwindling as people suffered survey fatigue,” said Sally Landon, manager of the school district’s Research and Analytics Department. “There was also a lack of transparency. People filled out a survey and didn’t know what happened next. We wanted to find a way to close that loop with our communities where they would be invested throughout the whole process.”


A Lesson in Engagement

To supercharge engagement, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) created a community engagement portal with EngagementHQ from Granicus.

EngagementHQ is a dedicated public participation platform to manage everything from consultation to collaboration. It removes traditional barriers to increase overall participation, gives community members multiple ways to engage, and improves data collection to gain actionable insights and reduce the risk of dissatisfaction.

Better yet, “It’s a much more fun and creative way to get community input,” Landon said.

HWDSB used its engagement site to communicate with the public on various programs and issues, from graduation dates and boundary reviews to information on the International Baccalaureate program.

Sheryl Robinson Petrazzini, the district’s director of education, used the platform to host a Joy Project, which she described as being like having coffee with the community. “These conversations were a way to introduce myself to the community,” she said. After the pandemic, “We wanted to move from just surviving to thriving, and connecting with community is an important part of that.”

Robinson Petrazzini also hosted a Black Joy project to celebrate Black culture, including her role as a Black leader in a large school district. “It was a lot about building trust. These projects go beyond engagement numbers and speak to how we connect with those who trust us to educate their children.”

These efforts and others were designed to help make the school board and staff accessible and approachable. The community could better interact with HWDSB staff, creating a stronger bond and more profound connection.


Report Card Shows an A+

The public immediately took to the platform when first used at a public meeting. As Landon said, EngagementHQ allowed citizens to participate in a way that was comfortable for them. If they were apprehensive to speak publicly at an open forum for a specific school or program issue, they could submit their comments online and staff could respond to them in real time.

Plus, the City of Hamilton already used the EngagementHQ platform for its projects. Many parents already knew how to navigate the school district’s page, making for an easy transition.

Residents also saw the entire decision-making process. They could follow a topic from inception to completion, seeing the data that was collected, how the school board interpreted the results, and what was done with that information.

Engagement Officer Amber Aquin said one-question surveys were particularly valuable in growing the site.

“We could get immediate feedback on an issue and immediately lead people interested in that topic into a larger discussion by directing them to our Engage site,” she said.

HWDSB continues to expand its use of the engagement platform, connecting with the community on boundary redesigns, annual budgets, and its strategic plan.

“We now have more access points to our residents. We also get a higher quality of engagement. When we used only surveys, we found the data was not consistently rich. This platform fosters a more thoughtful engagement and we get truly valuable feedback.”
Sally Landon, Manager of Research and Analytics, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

Ready to transform public engagement in your school district? Contact us today and start shaping a brighter future for your community!