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The 7 Worst Words (And How Schools Can Manage Change)
Connor Gleason

“But that’s how we’ve always done it...”

Doesn’t it just make your eyes roll?

Managing change in schools can be a challenge. With new policies, procedures, and software being introduced all the time, it's important for schools to have strategies in place for teams to manage change effectively.

But change is good. Change is progress — without change, your school or district can’t grow and continue to offer the best for your staff, students, and families.

One of the most significant changes for marketing and communication offices can be the implementation of a new content management system (CMS), communication tools, and admission and enrollment management software.

But why is that so hard?

Marketing, communication, and admissions offices spend all day long a significant portion of their time in these systems, and what’s familiar becomes the standard — but "familiar" doesn't mean "best," and that doesn’t mean your processes and systems can’t be improved, save your team more time, and revamp your strategies — all for the benefit of your school.

So, why change it up when “that’s how we’ve always done it?” Grrr…

From switching tuition management or school website providers so you can better connect with families, a host of factors are influencing the pace for schools to evolve and meet the needs of families in a fast-changing world. With the right system in place, change can positively transform your team’s work and the impact you can make.

It takes time. Look at the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, which outlines the stages of emotions many may feel when a change occurs. You might feel shock, denial, and even anger well before big changes are finally accepted.

So when change becomes a reality, how can your school deal with processes, welcome new opportunities, and manage this type of change effectively? 

Glad you asked!


Communicate the reasons for the change

The first step in integrating new systems at your school is to communicate the reasons why the change is necessary. Whether your office is in too many different systems, your school website doesn’t allow enough flexibility, or you’ve had enough headaches dealing with manual processes of data, the time for a change is now.

So, explain why the new system can:

  • Improve efficiency
  • Save time or money
  • Reduce the number of systems you currently have
  • Share your school’s story better
  • Be more secure, or
  • Provide a better user experience

Communicating this information clearly and regularly will help your stakeholders understand the need for the change and what they can expect. This includes teachers, administrators and school leadership, parents, and students — everyone the change affects should be aware of what’s happening, why it’s happening, and what the expected outcomes are.

Involve stakeholders in the process

When selecting new software, it’s essential to involve stakeholders in the decision-making process. This means gathering input from administrators, superintendents, parents, and students to ensure that the new system meets their needs. 

Listen to their concerns, suggestions, and feedback to ensure that it’s a system that works for everyone. While this approach can help build buy-in and support for the changes, having ”too many cooks in the kitchen” can slow the process down and be frustrating when simple decisions need to be made.

Pittsburg Community School homepage in a laptop mockup

When migrating to Finalsite’s content management system Composer, former public information director at Pittsburg Community Schools Elisha Seals knew the benefits of a mobile-friendly, high-quality web design would assist the district, but was well aware of how change could affect the team. Seals began polling families, staff, and teachers to learn more about the pain points of using the website, and based on their responses, it was clear users were not able to easily find what they were looking for and were not happy with the current experience.

"The migration was a heavy lift, but it was an exciting move for us," Seals shared. "I think we were past due, and people were waiting for this. Change can be scary, and it was a lot of work, but I think it's a unique moment because, for us, we were ready."

Keep Reading how Pittsburg Community Schools regained its community's trust and found a new partner with Finalsite.

Provide training and support

Implementing a new CMS and software can be overwhelming for staff. “Rocking the boat,” so to speak, is one of the biggest factors in a refusal for change, and when the school year is in full swing, no one really wants to re-learn how they’ve been doing things for years — even though they know it’s not the best solution.

When new tech is introduced, it's important to provide training and support to help people adapt and help everyone adjust to a new system. This may include in-person training, video tutorials, workshops, or online resources. Offering ongoing support after the initial training is also essential to ensure that everyone feels confident with the changes and using the new system.

Mercer Island School District video launch

Those external resources are helpful, but don’t forget about what you can do to acclimate users to a new system. Mercer Island School District created a handy walkthrough of its new site and shared it on Instagram to introduce users to the interface, showing where staff and families can find key information.

Emphasize the benefits of the change

Change can be scary, but it's important to emphasize the benefits of the changes to manage the pushback and focus on the future. Schools should communicate how the new system will streamline and improve processes. Highlighting the advantages will help build excitement and enthusiasm for the changes, and help staff and families see it as an opportunity, rather than a challenge.

When looking to integrate its emergency messaging platform (Blackboard Connect) with its email communication platform (Finalsite Messages), The Galloway School needed a system to seamlessly send emergency notifications without worrying about updating parent and student data.

mockup of galloway school notification on a laptop and iphone

“In a post-pandemic world, we realized how crucial it was to be able to contact our entire school community quickly in the event of an emergency, said Director of Marketing and Communications Meghan Stauts. “We met with our IT Department and I pulled our database manager into the conversations. We thought it’d be a great solution to everything we had been complaining about, and the more we can streamline our platforms, the better.”

The Galloway School can now use Messages XR to both text and email notifications quickly and efficiently without worrying if their student/parent contact information is up to date. “It gives me peace of mind knowing that we are able to distribute emergency notifications and standard communications quickly across a variety of platforms,” she added. “It has become a 2-step process, rather than a 5- or 6-step process.”

Celebrate success

It's important to celebrate successes along the way. When milestones are reached or positive outcomes are achieved, take the time to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments. 

This can help build momentum and motivation for continued change, encourage staff to continue working toward their common goal, and help users see the value of their efforts.

Plus, there’s no rule that says there can’t be cake involved…

After the launch of its new website, The Bolles School took to social media to help celebrate its recent website award in the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards, an international competition for creative professionals who inspire others to greater heights.

bolles award social post

Make change a normal part of your school’s culture

Just as some teams and schools are hesitant to change, some schools are more comfortable with it. Small but meaningful, visible changes make a large, positive difference. As these tiny victories accumulate — more time to focus on other tasks, increased inquiries, better faculty retention, increased productivity — staff become more open to the next experience.

Key takeaway

Change is a constant in the world of education, but it doesn't have to be a source of stress and anxiety. To help manage change and create a culture of growth, remember to involve others, provide support, communicate the benefits, and celebrate success to help your team.

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Connor Gleason Headshot


Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

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