“Salesforce has given us a clear picture of who we partner with and how students gain access to programs that will better their future.” - Theress Pidick, Director of Work-Based Learning, Denver Public Schools
Denver Public Schools Improves Communication with Parents and Prepares Students for College and Career with Innovative CareerConnect Program
Denver Public Schools (DPS) aims to provide all students with the opportunity to achieve the knowledge and skills necessary to become contributing citizens in our diverse society. The district serves over 92,000 students–69% of whom qualify for free and reduced lunch. DPS is among the fastest-growing urban school districts in the nation in terms of enrollment and leads all large districts in Colorado in student academic growth. Supporting such a diverse and rapidly growing student population creates unique challenges when communicating with parents and preparing students for college and career success.
Engaging Parents More Deeply
As a way for parents to stay involved and up to date 24/7 with their child’s academic progress, DPS offers an online Parent Portal where parents can view attendance, grades, assessment scores, and much more. The tool provides parents with information to drive more meaningful conversations with their children and with teachers.
To encourage adoption and usage, the Parent Portal team sends bi-monthly newsletters and periodic notifications to all 54,000 parents who have an active Parent Portal account. In the past, the team had multiple systems to create its newsletter, pull contacts, and send communications, which was cumbersome. The newsletter presentation was inconsistent among operating systems, and the tools did not have the capability to store all of their contacts—until they found Salesforce.
The previous solution “just wasn’t intuitive and couldn’t handle all the intricacies of our student household relationships,” says Samantha Kessel, Parent/Student Portal Outreach Coordinator.
“Our department did not have the capacity to filter contacts or use sophisticated methods of outreach the way we needed,” says Daniel Houser, the district’s Family Empowerment and Systems Integration Specialist.
As the collaborative partnership between the Parent Portal team and DPS’ Office of Family and Community Engagements’ Family Empowerment team deepened, conversations started about their shared need to better communicate with DPS parents. They sought a solution that could reach different segments of Denver’s diverse community, and which would allow sharing information more effectively with parents.
“Our goal is to increase family engagement by supporting the foundation of an academic partnership between a parent, their child, and the school,” Houser adds. “To help meet this goal we needed to find a tool to facilitate more equitable communication to our parents about district events, trainings, and available resources while having the ability to track a parent’s engagement journey. Parents fill out forms at our events that ask them how they want to be involved and we want to make sure we are providing them opportunities to have their voices heard.”
A Solution With a Wide (or Narrow) Reach
Together, the two departments selected Salesforce as a shared CRM with Pardot to streamline their communications.
Pardot is a marketing automation solution that lets district communications teams engage at a deeper level with their contacts. Kessel and Houser saw Pardot as an innovative solution to meet their needs.
“We selected Pardot because it was a cost-effective, simple solution that made a lot of sense for us,” Kessel says. “Its user interface is easier to use and the integration with Salesforce is seamless.”
Kessel uses Pardot to produce professional-looking newsletters and easily sync contact information. Pardot allows the team to send more targeted communications by segmenting contacts.
“We are able to track click rates and monitor which links our parents click on the most,” she notes. “This type of data assists us in understanding the particular topics our parents are interested in and helps us develop content that is more impactful to our audiences.”
The Empowerment team uses Pardot’s custom filters to send email messages, notices, and invitations to neighborhood-specific events to DPS parents in their native languages. It draws on Pardot’s capabilities to track the outgoing communications and create different campaigns to parents who have not opened an email or responded to an invite request.
Saving Precious Time
Kessel says Pardot’s integration with Salesforce and its usability are big advantages: “The newsletters have a cleaner look. We can track our campaigns, and truly follow the parent communication journey through a more streamlined process, saving a lot of time.”
Leveraging Salesforce to Prepare Students for College & Career Success
In addition to improving communication with parents, DPS sought to more deeply understand the impact of CareerConnect–a program that prepares students for college and career through relevant courses while connecting them with partner companies and higher education institutions for hands-on workplace experiences and mentoring.
“Statistics show that more and more students need to have relevant work and postsecondary experience, and we want to help our students tap into their strengths and build their professional networks early on,” says Theress Pidick, Director of Work-Based Learning. Students who participate in five or more CareerConnect courses are 90% more likely to graduate from high school.
Implementation of CareerConnect means DPS must manage information for over 14,000 students, 250 community partners, and 38 schools across the district. With a small team in place to support this program, they recognized the need to streamline processes and systems to better manage data and bridge relationships between multiple constituents. “It was hard to be strategic without being able to understand which students our partners were serving, which students we were serving well, and where there were gaps,” adds Pidick.
Connecting Multiple Data Points to Assess Impact
DPS initially used spreadsheets and manual processes to track and manage multiple data points–student demographic information, community partner programs, and more. This limited the team’s ability to see students’ involvement in CareerConnect, created barriers to evaluating the true impact of various programs, and made for inadequate record-keeping.
“We needed a strong platform that could provide a clear picture of the community partners we work with and the impact our work-based learning programs have on our students,” explains Pidick. This led DPS to extend its use of Salesforce.
The CareerConnect team began consolidating data in Salesforce to identify where community partners are located regionally, the programs they run, the number of students they serve, and more. “We’re now able to leverage Salesforce in a way that enhances recruitment of our community partners and provides a glimpse into their impact,” explains Pidick. “We can show them information about the students they work with, the volunteers they’ve provided, and the hours they’ve committed to supporting our program. We can then work to see how else they would like to get involved.”
Gaining Insights to Improve Equity
Integrating Salesforce has also enabled DPS to consolidate student and school information in one place. The CareerConnect team now has visibility into every aspect of the program–students, community partners, and schools–and can gain a true 360-degree view of each student’s journey from middle school through graduation. They can also pull reports, analyze data, and share it with schools to inform their strategy and help identify which students aren’t receiving access to work-based learning programs.
“This is about eliminating economic and educational barriers so that all students have equal access to college and career opportunities,” says Pidick. “Salesforce has given us a clear picture of who we partner with and how our students gain access to programs that will better their future.”