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Nextdoor for Public Agencies

This image shows a geographic outline of San Ramon Valley Unified School District, their logo, as well as the logo for the Nextdoor platform.

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Introduction

It’s always been our goal here at the Community Engagement Initiative to share resources and tools that allow LEAs to connect with their communities. We recently sat down with Ilana Israel Samuels,  Director of Communications, Family and Community Engagement at the San Ramon Valley Unified School District for a quick Q&A about SRVUSD’s experiences with the Nextdoor platform as a public agency. This post should not be taken as an endorsement of any particular platform or technology. Our goal is only to make you aware of tools you may not have been aware of.

What is Nextdoor?

Nextdoor is a private social networking platform for neighborhoods, allowing neighbors to connect, communicate, and share information with each other within a localized area. Users can post updates, ask for and offer help, share local recommendations and alerts, and discuss community issues. The platform is accessible via website and mobile application, ensuring that neighbors can stay connected and informed no matter where they are.

Q: How did you first hear about Nextdoor’s account type that is specific to public agencies?

A: I actually first heard about NextDoor for Public Agencies from our partners at the Contra Costa County Supervisor’s Office. That was in approximately January, 2022. However, at that time, they did not offer the Nextdoor for Public Agencies to School Districts for free! I submitted a request anyway, which they denied. Then over the summer, I received an email from them letting me know that school districts could now join for free; so in August 2022, we created the account.

Q: Is communication mostly one-way, or do you get people reaching out to you through the platform with questions, etc.? (I know sometimes platforms can feel like you’re just shouting into the void)

A: Communication is almost always only one-way. We try not to reply to comments on our posts, unless it’s to clarify a misunderstanding or update information. As a public agency, we cannot comment on other people’s posts at all.

Q: Has it led you to connect or partner with local businesses or nonprofits?

A: At this point we have not seen much traction in Nextdoor helping us connect to local businesses or nonprofits. We use it mainly as a tool to communicate important information that we believe the wider community needs to know, beyond our parents and caregivers. This includes posts about the community use of our campuses/shared-use park spaces during school hours, sharing updates from our partners in the City, Town or from Police agencies, sharing positive news (ie our National Blue Ribbon Schools announcement), or providing information about things like Kindergarten registration or school events open to the community.

Q: How easy was it to set up?

A: Super easy!

Q: How easy is it to maintain? (Do you have to moderate comments or answer questions daily, weekly, etc. or do you just post when you need to post.)

A: We hardly get comments honestly, so it is very easy to maintain. If we think it is information that people will have follow up questions about, we include my name and contact email in the post, so that our community knows who to reach out to with their questions. We do not have a regular posting schedule, it’s on an as-needed basis.

We are so fortunate for the partnership between the City of San Ramon and the district, which allows for the joint use of many parks throughout the area, including Central Park. We want to remind all of the neighbors who walk their dogs and exercise at Central Park next to Iron Horse Middle School of the importance of staying off of shared-use areas - including the track, blacktop, and the actual Iron Horse campus - on school days during school hours. The safety of students and staff is a top priority for both SRVUSD and the City of San Ramon. When neighbors walk into areas where kids are participating in P.E. or hanging out during lunch, it is very disconcerting to school staff who have the most important role of keeping students safe. Although in your mind, it may seem harmless - and that you are minding your own business when you walk your dog quietly across the field or stop to stretch on the edge of the blacktop - it does not necessarily feel harmless in the minds of school staff. Every person who crosses the invisible fence line onto school property during the hours of 8am - 3pm on school days must be considered a possible intruder - which means that staff must stop what they are doing and go talk to the person and ask them to leave the school property. The signage (see photos) is a way to remind our Iron Horse neighbors to walk elsewhere during school hours on school days. We sincerely appreciate and thank you for being good neighbors, and for your attention to this important reminder! If you have any questions please reach out to: Ilana Israel Samuels, SRVUSD Director of Communications and Community Relations: isamuels@srvusd.net
SRVUSD Post Regarding Park Usage During School Hours

Q: Do you have any anecdotes or specific examples of positive outcomes achieved through the platform?

A: Yes! One of our very first posts (which we recently reposted as a reminder), was about using our parks/spaces during school hours. We were having a very specific issue last year with the use of one of the largest parks at one of our middle schools. According to the Principal there, the inadvertent trespassing onto our property scaled down significantly after this post!

Q: How would you compare the size of your audience compared to other platforms like Facebook or Twitter? 

A: The audience is actually much larger! Nextdoor shows the following numbers [Listed to the Right]. So actually, a much larger reach than other social media, but we honestly expected that since NextDoor is of interest (apparently) to a wider group of individuals, whether they have kids or not. I am not sure of this, but it seems to me that the “members” are a set number, if someone joins NextDoor from a particular neighborhood of ours, I believe they just automatically become a “member”. They don’t need to actually subscribe. 

Q: What other apps or services do you use to reach your community?

We primarily use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as our social media outreach to parents/caregivers. We also have a dedicated student facing Instagram. If you are talking about the wider community (people who don’t have kids currently in the district), we utilize our partnerships with the County, Town and City (the 3 municipalities that comprise our district), as well as the 2 local Chambers of Commerce, to get the word out about things. They are all amazing partners and are willing to include information from us in their newsletters, on social media, etc.

Screenshot from the Nextdoor app showing the reachable audience of SRVUSD

Conclusion

Thank you Ilana and San Ramon Valley Unified!

If Nextdoor for Public Agencies sounds like it would be beneficial for your district you can find more information using the links below.

Useful Links

Ilana Israel Samuels

Ilana Israel Samuels

Ilana Israel Samuels has worked in the field of education for her entire career, including early childhood, teacher training, K-12 programs and college admissions. Her favorite role of all time is her current role serving as the Director of Communications, Family and Community Engagement in SRVUSD. When not supporting the district, its 35 schools and more than 29,000 students, she is spending time with her husband, two dogs and three cats; and when they are not too busy, she loves hanging out with her daughter, who is a Social Worker with the Child Mind Institute, and her son, an Advance Scouting Analyst for the Oakland A's.

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