How Ramapo Indian Hills’ New Superintendent Engaged Students for Successful Strategic Planning with ThoughtExchange
In 2021, respected educational leader Dr. Rui Dionisio became superintendent at Ramapo Indian Hills. It was time to create a new strategic plan, and Dr. Dionisio was ready for the challenge. As an experienced superintendent, he knew he’d need to tap into his community’s collective intelligence to create a supported, successful plan. And he had the best platform for the job.
ThoughtExchange allowed Dr. Dionisio to gain insights from over 400 faculty and staff, 2,000 students and 40,000 community members quickly and easily—and synthesize their ideas into an effective district strategic plan. Here’s how.
“I’m focused on three key aspects: listening first, learning second, and leading third.”
Tackling strategic planning challenges with ThoughtExchange features
To create a successful district strategic plan, Dr. Dionisio needed to engage and consult a large, disparate community. Many communities feel disconnected from their district leadership, so he knew a survey wouldn’t cut it. This one-way technology limits community member input and shuts down transparent conversation.
“With better information, you get better decisions—and if you make better decisions, then you best support your staff and support the outcomes for your students.”
Using ThoughtExchange, Dr. Dionisio gathered rich insights in less time, made supported decisions based on the best ideas, and heard every voice while creating transparent, fair, empathetic conversations.
Through a series of Exchanges, Dr. Dionisio engaged with:
- 25 strategic planning committee members,
- 400 faculty and staff,
- 40,956 community members,
- And 2,244 students
And addressed the following challenges with ThoughtExchange features:
“The ThoughtExchange tool is incredible. It allows me to leverage the possibilities and capabilities of this place not only from a financial and human resources standpoint. To leverage the power and innovation of people and their ideas is incredible.”
5 pro student engagement tips
Although Dr. Dionisio was happy with the staff engagement his Exchanges received, he was especially thrilled by the level of student engagement. He had a 99% student participation rate and received quality feedback. But how do you get 2,000+ students to engage with and participate in your Exchange?
Here are Dr. Dionisio’s pro tips:
- Introduce ThoughtExchange to student leaders first
- Share the platform with the student council and pre-populate thoughts with their questions before launching with the student body—Increases early student trust and buy-in.
- Launch Exchange in an organic environment
- Launch student Exchange in an English class—Gets students in the mindset to write and contribute.
- Stagger launch to student subsets
- Launch Exchange to student subset daily and front load thoughts—Allows newer students to rate ideas they may not have generated on their own.
- Create agenda for student government using student feedback
- Encourage discussion about the student body’s thoughts and feelings—Creates trust and engagement and gives agency to student leaders. Helps them see value in their work as advocates for their peers.
- Manage Exchange cadence and frequency
- Consider when and how often to deliver Exchanges—Prevents overloading participants and avoids fatigue.
ThoughtExchange Tip: Use Exchanges throughout the strategic planning process to inform, refine/align, execute, and measure your strategic plan.
“We’re educating our students, not only on what [ThoughtExchange] is and how it’s used, but on how important it is for them to give us feedback—and that the feedback isn’t going to just sit on a shelf, we’re going to act on it.”
Leveraging your community’s insights with ThoughtExchange
Whether your district is working to build community engagement, improve school culture, or re-imagine boundaries, you’ll want to hear from the people who matter most.
With unique features like Manual Moderation to build trust, Survey Questions to isolate supported thoughts, and Multi-Language Capabilities to hear all voices, ThoughtExchange helps education leaders uncover their district’s needs and implement more effective strategic plans.
“That’s what I really love about the strategic planning process and about using ThoughtExchange in creative and innovative ways to have meaningful change and impact well beyond the day-to day-operations. To really think more from a visionary standpoint. What can we do to transform how we’re currently doing things?”