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Keeping the public informed

By Staff | Aug 26, 2015

The Lee County School Board discussed a few options of how it could share the School District’s annual report with the public to keep everyone better informed.

Communications and Produc-tion Director Amity Chandler said the purpose of an annual report is designed to celebrate an organization’s success, reflect responsible spending and how dollars are spent and to educate the mission and vision of an organization.

When creating an annual report, audiences are considered because who and how it is being consumed is changing. She said a cookie cutter approach is not always the best way to go.

Chandler said annual reports are becoming shared less on paper and more through online interaction.

“People are used to finding their information on the web right now. They are not accustomed to going into a library or going into a physical building or facility to pick up an annual report or information about the organization,” she said. “Because of our shift and how we consume information, we are seeing organizations moving towards more of an online interaction as opposed to the paper traditional report.”

Online interaction provides the district with the opportunity to track who is looking and how many hits the report receives, as well as which pages were the most popular. The interaction also provides a glimpse at what kind of information the public is seeking and what search engine they used to get to the annual report.

“That type of data helps you offer more information and more decisions about your consumer and audience, and those are analytics we would use moving forward,” Chandler said.

Less text is also important when sharing an annual report. She said audience members are seeking information in a bullet format to quickly access data.

Dual use of an annual report is also useful.

The district used a calendar format for the annual report for the 2007-2008 school year. Seven hundred and fifty calendars were printed for $4,176. The following year 500 calendars were printed for $1,870.

In 2012-2013, as well as 2013-2014, a book was printed in quantities of 800 and 500, ranging in price from $2,222 for 30 pages and $535 for 16 pages.

“We switched to the book format because the district was heavily lacking in consistent standard handouts and published documents,” Chandler said, adding that when she switched to a book format she was able to make every page a handout as a PDF. “It met a dual need at that particular time.”

She said she believes the district can do better in providing service for their clients.

Board member Mary Fischer said she likes the book form because the report is the district’s report and it should share the district’s successes and provide information to the public. She said she requests that graphics illustrate how much the budget is, where it goes and how many employees the district has.

Board member Steve Teuber said he is biased because every time he gets an annual report it gets 15 minutes of his time.

“I don’t even file it because you are never going to look at it again, more times than not you are going to throw it away. People just don’t spend the time reading it. Very few people are going to look at it more than once,” he said. “A calendar on the other hand, every family, all the events on the school calendar and all of our special events that no one can keep track of it is just a very unique calendar.”

Teuber said people will post the calendar in their kitchen. With a school calendar, individuals look at it and know it is there.

“That is something you wouldn’t pick up in a 15-minute perusal,” he said. “My vote is either don’t do it if we are not going to do it right. If we are not going to do it right, don’t do it. If it is just the matter of printing a book, my vote is not for it. Don’t spend the money. If we are going to do it, do it as Mrs. Chandler said with the intent we want it in their face all the time.”

Chandler said as far as cost, it will be difficult to get every family one for $1 a piece with a single calendar on top and information on the bottom.

“This district spends very few dollars on marketing and providing information for parents in print format,” she said, because “you want to be good stewards of your budget.”

The idea of exploring sponsors was discussed to help offset the cost of doing a calendar.

Chandler suggested that the district publish an annual calendar that everyone receives at the beginning of the school year, as well as annual report that would be available for individuals to print if they wanted a particular page.