How Denver Public Schools Engages Families
By: Daniel Houser, Denver Public Schools, Family Empowerment and Systems Integration Specialist
Every school needs easy ways to connect, engage, and empower teachers and families to ensure student success. With varying levels of access to technology, it’s also important to be able to flexibly connect with families, such as on their mobile phones. Here’s the story of how Denver Public Schools (DPS) is using cloud technology to help improve the family and community experience and access to information and communicating more effectively with our 54,000+ families.
Denver Public Schools and Salesforce: A Tool for Family and Community Engagement
I work in DPS’ Office of Family and Community Engagement (FACE). My department’s goal is to engage and empower parents to be involved in their children’s education, which we all know is vital to student success. As our outreach efforts grew in volume and complexity, we examined technological solutions to improve our outreach options to be more targeted and personalized and thus more deeply engaging. Like many other districts that are making the transition from paper and spreadsheets to the cloud, we moved from word-of-mouth phone trees to Excel sheets to a platform that enabled us to be a more connected school district.
Why a District-Based CRM Helps Engage Families and Communities
Accelerating our ability to educate and empower parents to be actively engaged in their kids’ educational journey is fundamentally about relationship-building. So we decided to incorporate a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool to allow us to do strategic targeting, scale up our outreach, and to be more consistent in the messaging and timing of the communication. We also needed information to allow us to have an efficient follow-up system as well as improve and sharpen our program development based on the various needs of our district.
Targeting Specific Parents Across Our City
We decided to use Salesforce Pardot. Pardot’s marketing automation system helps us deliver emails to specific groups of contacts like parents, teachers, and other constituents. Pardot helps us seamlessly manage the flow of emails and monitor how engaged people are with our communications. We now can send out emails in the parents and guardians preferred language and look at click rates to send reminders and registration links.
We also realized that having a system that is mobile-first is important. Student guardians might have access to a smartphone, but might not have direct access to a traditional desktop computer. This is key for enabling equity in access to timely information. We also liked that Salesforce for K-12, with Pardot, included ways to keep contact data up-to-date in real time. We use parent and guardian information from the district’s Student Information System so we can make sure we’re always reaching parents, teachers, and guardians via their correct and updated contact information.
Expanding and Collaborating Over Time
Like many schools and districts, we didn’t start from scratch: We began our technology journey by expanding on a Salesforce implementation that another department initiated. The Parent Portal Outreach team had been using Salesforce for several years, so as collaboration between the Family and Community Engagement team and Parent Portal team grew, it was a natural fit for us to partner with them in using Salesforce to be a more connected school district. The Family and Community Engagement team chose to expand our work with Salesforce since it had more capacity to support our program’s growth than the previous system.
At Denver Public Schools, we love Salesforce for our marketing of events for our parents and guardians because we can now create and manage online marketing campaigns to specific populations AND track how people were interacting–or ignoring–our messages.
It was transformative to be able to create communications and track our impact all in one place. I can’t count how many hours that has saved my team!
Customizing to Meet Our Needs
Salesforce is easy for us at our department to customize. We have added fields into the system to document parents’ interests, self-assessment results, outreach history, event/community meeting attendance, and some program information such as the most recent Parent-Teacher Home Visit. This gives us an overview of parent engagement as well as a snapshot of our work and touchpoints with contacts.
People get a lot of email these days, and parents and guardians are no exception. One of our big concerns is always respecting families’ needs and not overloading them with requests, invites, and information. When thinking how we could track all the outreach and emails we were sending for other departments and work streams on our team we could not think of an easy solution, we thought about cross referencing lists or using a sort of Venn diagram. This was cumbersome until we realized that if we used this information on a map, we could visually represent what we wanted and even see our areas of higher email volume and event attendance. MapAnything, a Salesforce app, allowed us to track our outreach campaigns and present this information in a user-friendly visual format with information overlaid on a school district map. In addition, we also realized that many of our parents request and respond better to text messages, so we have also added SMS-Magic to send reminders. Many of our parents like to have the date, time, and location of the event right on their phone.
Moving Towards a More Connected K-12 District
Where do we go from here? We realize that we are touching only the tip of the iceberg and there is a lot of potential for us to expand the use of technology for better outreach to all of the schools and communities. We are starting to use Salesforce as a program management tool to give us a snapshot of our work at different schools and organizations, and we’re also integrating pertinent departmental work streams in the system. We are also exploring best practices to achieve greater efficiencies such as online registration for events and workflow automations. Our intention is to leverage Salesforce to allow us to concentrate our time and effort on better serving our families. Ultimately, we’ll continue to do our best to engage as academic partners in the success of Denver Public School students.
Want to learn more about how we’re using Salesforce to engage families? Join us (along with KIPP and Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory) for a webinar with T.H.E. Journal.
Your students deserve the best education, and you can help them with the best technology. Check out some handy resources from Salesforce for K-12 and get connected!
- Read K-12 school and district technology success stories
- Get more info on school communications and parent engagement
- Collaborate around 360-degree views of student success
About the Author
Daniel Houser-Seidlitz is a Family Empowerment and Systems Integration Specialist at Denver Public Schools. He is responsible for the development, management and implementation of essential system functions to support maximum community and family engagement in Denver Public Schools. He manages and implements Salesforce and Pardot for school district coordination and outreach. He also develops, manages, and implement evaluation systems to measure the impact of programs and events of the team’s family engagement activities.
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