Editorial: Park City School District still has ways to go to solve communication problems

Criticism levied at the Park City School District has often followed a consistent theme in recent years: School officials do not always communicate well enough with parents and staff members.

Those complaints cropped up again recently, as members of a committee tasked with helping shape the district’s future expressed concern over a teacher survey indicating many educators often feel left out of the loop and like they don’t have a voice in the administrative decisions that affect their classrooms.

That those issues are still causing discomfort among teachers is a troubling sign for a district that has pledged repeatedly to improve communication and has seen messaging problems scuttle critical initiatives. Most notably, poor communication doomed a $56 million bond measure to improve facilities in 2015 that officials saw as critical to solving overcrowding in the schools, but it also caused the Board of Education to abandon an effort to revive the plan this year.

To its credit, the district has taken tangible steps to remedy the problem. They include offering informal sessions for stakeholders to meet with Superintendent Ember Conley and the school board, crafting policies and guidelines to ensure the proper flow of information, implementing a two-way text messaging system to interface with parents and hiring a full-time communications director.

Those measures represent progress, and doubtless, there are parents and teachers satisfied with the improvements. But in matters like this, perception is reality. And the fact remains that a significant amount of teachers still say they’re not being heard, a truth that comes on the heels of another feedback-gathering effort in the spring that revealed district administration and the school board weren’t effectively getting their message across to large swaths of the community.

So the onus remains on the district to do more. It’s impossible to please everybody, and there will always be a vocal segment unsatisfied with the district’s efforts. But reaching a baseline of broad approval is critical for both the day-to-day operations of the schools and for the district to finally make headway in the long-term facility planning that has been a primary goal going on four years.

School officials seemingly understand that and say they are continuing to search for ways to better connect with the community and staff members. And the steps they’ve taken so far show they’re serious about improving communication. But until more teachers feel they have a voice and the vast majority of residents are pleased, the district will have to settle for an incomplete grade.

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